Novel Buddies, we're falling apart!!! Serious members needed! JOIN!!! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 10-02-2006, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Come on now! Post something. Start this weeks thread and actually put something UP!

We had lots of interest in the beginning. I understand that some people WANT to but can't find the time, but some of you MUST have SOMETHING. I could use the practice critiquing, as well as some advice for direction!


I'm not posting the juicy, romantic parts of mine until I see some participation! Are any of you just avoiding due to privacy issues? Would a Yahoo group help?

How can I stall and procrastinate, if you don't give me something to read?!
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#2 of 24 Old 10-02-2006, 12:06 PM
 
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Red - I think a group is a great idea, but I hesitate to post my material on this because it is such an open forum, you know? If anyone ever lifted someone's work, it'd be hard to prove. Have you ever checked out Fanstory.com? It's a website for writers to post their stuff, get it reviewed and to review other's work. There is a wide range of talent on there. And, it will give you lots of practice reviewing and most of the people that review your work are very consructive. If you are going to write and post it for review, there is a small monthly fee (5.95), but for just reviewing, it is free. Plus, everything you put on the site is copyright protected. You should check it out.
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#3 of 24 Old 10-02-2006, 12:54 PM
 
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I'll join.

I put up a little piece last week, but the following is the actual first part of a novel I have been writing called West Side. The story starts in the very early 1960's. Hope you don't find it too weird.

(If the first sentence looks too abrupt, I have actually cut off my original starting paragraph, since I was feeding this piece into something entirely different. But I am going to try to make the thread of this story stand alone.)

....................................

If Italians were officially despised by Paul’s Irish relatives, everyone in his family seemed to have at least one Italian best friend. His grandmother Jane had two. Olivetta, a spinster who had held onto it to care for her mother until the old crone had died at the age of 83 after a 47 year long illness, was Grandma’s cemetery friend. Olivetta’s mother had thrown her house into perpetual mourning after Olivetta’s father had been killed in an industrial accident that no one would talk about when Olivetta was three.

“He died from drowning after he fell into a giant vat of chocolate at the Cocobar factory” admitted his mother one day as she dipped a Christmas cookie into her scotch. “He was badly chopped up by the machine. At the wake, you could smell the nougat through the closed coffin.”

The man’s wife had never forgiven him for having had such a ridiculous death. But she made the best of it in traditional Italian style and became a perpetual widow. The rooms were darkened and black crepe was hung around a startled looking husband hanging over the fireplace in the living room. This was the home environment of the three-year-old Olivetta, who decorated her own dollhouse in deep mourning to the approval of her mother. As she grew up, she carried the somber darkness of her house with her in a tight lipped and dignified manner, wrapping herself in the thick rich shadows of death and the creamy nougat center of perpetual mourning. She lived the destiny given to her as the daughter of a man who had been transformed into a chocolate bar before his time.

Grandma’s hobby was going to wakes. Olivetta’s hobby was going to the cemetery. When they finally found each other through the incense mists of a First Saturday Sorrowful Mother Novena, this happy confluence of possibilities made them realize how much they stood to expand each other’s horizons.

Grandma found Olivetta’s perpetual dourness and the quiet reverence of her superstitions familiar and comforting. She viewed with admiration the pale kohl eyed statues and sexless portraits of saints and Madonnas that Olivetta’s mother had used to decorate their house. Though Grandma had once glimpsed a more robust, muscular, manly portrait of Christ through Olivetta’s bedroom door one day, she took it as a sign of the peculiar if muted fire of the intensity of Olivetta’s own internal religious feelings.

Olivetta taught Grandma how to decorate a grave. In the days when cemeteries were hand mowed by vacationing high school boys, a Catholic cemetery was a patchwork of thousands of well kept little islands. Olivetta brushed aside Grandma’s feeble clumps of faded petunias and mums and soon Grandpa’s grave was a veritable Amazon basin of jade plants, African violets and baby’s breath. This business of grave farming was hard work and Olivetta was a stern taskmaster. Three times a week they would take the bus, bucket and spades in hand in order to perform the necessary maintenance. Grandma sometimes said that she seemed to be giving Grandpa far more attention now than when he was alive, but upon reflection she had to admit that she liked him better now that he had stopped drinking. The high point of her summer that first year was when the Italian widow who tended the Pirelli complex eight plots over paused to look at Grandpa’s grave during one of her endless trips to the nearby pump for water to wash the tombstones. Inspecting the plot with a cold shrewd eye, she had glanced up at Paul‘s grandmother, frowned, nodded slowly, and moved on.

Grandma taught Olivetta the finer points of wake going. Whereas Olivetta’s prior practice had been to walk in, greet the family, kneel at the coffin, pray, step out of the way for ten minutes looking fondly at the corpse before greeting the family again and leaving, Grandma showed her how pressing the hand of the corpse firmly in one’s own while mumbling the prayer in a semi-audible manner not only showed the deceased a greater level of sincerity, it instilled a stronger feeling of actual participation in the event. Olivetta was squeamish at first, but when she discovered that she could take a dead person by the hand with dignity, she began to enjoy herself. She also secretly fancied that she might be able to meet men at the wakes, good men, since the bad men that her mother had told her about were likely out at bars and pursuing loose women through the streets. The fact that most of the men that Olivetta met at wakes were dead didn’t discourage her. She had been waiting for the right man now for almost 50 years and she knew that it was just a matter of time.

Grandma’s other Italian friend was Julia, who lived down the hall from her. Julia was an entirely different kind of Italian, which she herself attributed to the fact that she a real Italian from Sicily whereas Olivetta was an uptight northerner from Naples. Julia was earthy, energetic and primitive in her superstitions, a widow whose exhausted husband had finally departed with joy years before. When Julia had a headache, she would appear at the door to Grandma’s horrified delight with a holy card taped to her forehead. She wore several rosaries around her neck, which clicked clacked as she maneuvered her 300-pound frame gracefully about the furniture, muttering incantations against Satan, who seemed to be around every corner. Paul loved her apartment. Unlike Olivetta’s with its cold whisper of marble and holy water, Julia’s was a hot monastic charnel house in Palermo. Her saint pictures suffered in glorious full color, her saint statues writhed. Paul’s favorite was an almost life sized painting of what he called Jesus Inside Out, a gory bleeding sacred heart Christ whose chest looked like it had been ripped open by a giant bird. This hung over the kitchen table.

The best Christ that Grandma could offer was a blonde, blue-eyed gentle Christ done in 3-D, a Garden of Gethsemane Jesus perpetually blinking as though He had something in His eye. Julia didn’t like this Christ and would constantly try to spice up Grandma’s devotional life by bringing her statues of stoned, flogged and flailed saints that she had relatives send her from Sicily.

“Got you a Saint Sebastian. I got three already you can have this one for the living room.” She unwrapped the plaster Technicolor saint rolling its eyes in divine resignation at the 24 arrows sticking out of his body.

Grandma kept these statues in a discrete place on a sort of devotional altar she had made on the top of the old dead radio console the family had used before the war. Together they looked like the disoriented survivors of a plane crash. Paul loved this altar and when he was a child he would linger by it, hoping that God would talk to him through the radio.

It was not surprising that all this vivid Catholicism influenced Paul. From an early age his grandmother would take him to Mass, then in Latin. While the priest droned the sacred mysteries, Grandma would review her massive collection of holy cards culled from countless wakes. Paul was allowed to look at the pictures. When he got older, Grandma gave him a few of her doubles to keep in his little missal. He became an avid collector of holy cards, in the way that other boys collected stamps or baseball cards, and in due time he had also collected a group of pale boys from his parochial school who shared his hobby. Male adults in Paul’s family would come into the living room and see the group of boys sitting on the carpet busily trading cards and comparing notes, and they would smile until they noticed that the players on the cards were holding orbs and crosses and were wearing mitres. Paul’s father decided to nip this in the bud by buying Paul a fielder’s glove. This glove was of such high quality and so expensive that the street boys who saw first the skinny pale stranger carry it to their lot put him in center field. There, at the sharp crack of the bat, Paul raised the wonderful glove and was hit in the forehead by the speeding ball so hard, it knocked him all the way back onto the living room floor with his collection. Later that day his parents, thinking from the silence in the house that Paul might not be feeling well, opened his bedroom door quietly, and saw him on his knees before a statue of the Infant of Prague, a rosary in his hand and four around his neck, a holy card taped to his aching forehead. They closed his door discretely and as Paul’s father led his quietly sobbing mother away he said, “Don’t worry Hun, we’ll send him to a Jesuit school. That will knock the religion out of him.”

Grandma thought that Paul’s piety was a bit overdone, but Julia was delighted with him. She loaded him with frequent gifts of religious medals. Paul liked to put all of them on at the same time sometimes and when he would come out into the living room with them, Paul’s father would say to his mother “Here comes Father Superpimp from the Vatican again.” Julia felt that Paul should be a priest and she took it upon herself to educate him about theology and The Church, explaining, for example, that the current occupant of the papal throne was an imposter, a non-Italian put there in place of the kidnapped authentic pope by the Jews and German Lutherans who were behind Vatican II. When Paul proudly pulled out the ‘before and after’ photos proving her theory that Julia had given him for Show and Tell at his catechism class, he had burst into tears when the smiling nun had suddenly ejaculated a blasphemy and rushed forward to him, covering him with her voluminous brown scapular.

Although Julia was as enthusiastic about wakes as Grandma, Grandma avoided taking her. Julia tended to get broken up and sentimental in the presence of a body and she would invariably end up throwing herself on top of it, crying loudly with her face pressed against the decedent’s chest. This would have been only barely passable at an Irish wake if she had actually known the dead person in real life. But since Grandma went to any wake that looked promising from her daily reading of the obituaries, this was usually not the case. Year’s later, when Julia came to Paul’s mother’s wake, she launched herself moaning from the very door of the mortuary chapel, waddling rapidly down the aisle at full speed and grabbing Paul’s mother’s shoulders so forcefully that she dislodged the layers of padding that the undertaker had used to build up the dead woman’s diseased and emaciated body. While Julia sobbed on her chest, Paul had to go to the undertaker’s office to fetch him saying “A mourner, well, um, there was a bit of disruption to my mother, and…” to which the undertaker jumped to his feet, and straightening his tie, muttered a single exasperated ‘Italians’ as he whisked past Paul to the chapel, Paul following. A crowd of American Legion Auxiliaries was consoling Julia by the holy card table. The undertaker stood over the corpse and after a discrete glance over his left shoulder, reached down and decisively grabbed Paul’s mother’s breasts and snapped them back into place. He stepped back slightly to admire his work and then, stroking her hair once he turned to a deeply awed Paul and winked.

This ambiguous and disturbing wink was many years in the future from Paul’s favorite childhood memory of his mother. One 6th grade morning, he gingerly approached her as she dipped the fifth tea bag into her bracing morning cup. On a second saucer were two slices of cinnamon and butter toast and on a third saucer, placed so they would get neither buttery nor wet, were four aspirins. Paul waited until she had quaffed half of the scalding cup in one long gulp and taken a long drag from her cigarette; he knew that she didn’t really open her eyes to the world until that moment. He then presented her with his holy card and his request.

His mother listened, frowned, looked at the picture, then turned it over and said “You want to dress up as Bernard Dolan 1893 –1951, for Halloween?”

“No. As Saint Patrick. See, in the picture. He’s standing on a snake.”

His mother sighed as she gazed at the picture. She took another sip of tannin. Paul could see the thoughts pouring across her face. Cost, effort, cost, effort, cost, effort…. Finally, to his surprise and delight, she said Yes.

“All right, I’ll do it. When’s Halloween?”

“Tomorrow.”

His mother sighed again, picked up the saucer with the aspirins, and poured them into her hand. She tossed all four into her mouth, then she took another swig of tea and held it in her mouth long enough to start dissolving the aspirin, in order to savor the bitterness. She swallowed and took a decisive drag from her cigarette.

“All right. I’ll put something together. Now you better go to school.”

“It’s Sunday, Mom.”

“Then go to church.”

Paul retreated from his mother’s morning solitude, chest tingling with victory. An hour later, she roused herself to action. In a cupboard with a stuck door, she found some old green curtains. From Paul’s father’s starched white shirts, lying folded at attention in their drawer she extracted several good-sized pieces of light green cardboard. She measured, cut and sewed, encouraging her reluctant long unused sewing machine like she was driving a rusty Model T down a dirt road. As the costume began to come together she found that she was enjoying herself and she entirely forgot to eat lunch. Finishing her sewing in the early afternoon, she had rushed out to Steiner’s, the local five and dime on Madison Street, for a few essential accessories. Returning home, she found her mother and Olivetta in her kitchen. Having been alerted by Paul that morning his mother was working at her sewing machine, they had happened to drop by. Olivetta was just drying the breakfast dishes and her mother was rinsing off what appeared to be some spades in the sink. The look of hope and joy in Paul’s face at her arrival had caused her to put aside her perturbation and she swept up the bag within which she had earlier placed the costume and taking Paul by the hand, led him to his room.

She emerged with a “Why don’t you wait there and surprise your father” over her right shoulder as she quietly closed his door. Olivetta and Grandma were sitting quietly at the dining room table. Paul’s mother ignored them, went into the kitchen, and came out with a large cut glass tumbler filled with ice. As she snapped open the doors of the liquor cabinet, they heard the key turn in the front door as Paul’s father came in. He walked into the dining room and greeted his wife with a “Hi Hun” and the two grim women glaring at the liquor cabinet with “Hi ladies. Are we having a party?”

“Paul has something to show you” said his wife, as Paul’s door cracked open and he peeked out. “I made him a costume.”

The hat that Paul’s father was placing on the table paused in midair.

“You made him a costume?” His eyes darted to the bedroom door.

With a most pleased look on his face, a fully costumed Paul promenaded out into the dining room wearing his mother’s gold bedroom slippers. Paul’s mother ignored the gasps from the old women, and beaming with a pleasure almost as great as Paul’s own, took an ice clinking sip of her scotch.

Paul’s father was delighted too. “Nice mitre”, he said, of the beautiful green hat that almost doubled Paul’s height.

“How many snakes do you think you have there, son?”

“Over forty”, said Paul.

“Most impressive.”

But it wasn’t the snakes that impressed the two old women as much as the flamingos and palm trees that were worked into the green fabric of the saint’s regal gown and cape. Olivetta recognized the curtains that she had given as a wedding present, a fact that had slipped Paul’s mother’s mind until that very moment.

“I think that a drink is in order”, said Paul’s father. Paul began to shuffle around the dining room table, raising his snakes in benediction and in a low stentorian voice recited the Confiteor in Latin. As much as Grandma thought that he looked like Zora the Snake Charmer, she had to admit that he was pretty cute. Olivetta’s lips clamped together in simmering Christian charity.

“Mom”, asked Paul, interrupting his chant, “Are there any snakes in Ireland now?”

“No, sweetie”, replied his mother, pouring a real scotch for Grandma and a virgin one for Olivetta.

“No flamingos, either”, muttered Olivetta, under her breath. But this little comment was the only one she made about the costume that evening. She didn’t flinch when Paul had her try on the mitre and didn’t seem to notice when Paul’s father said that she looked like the Queen of Spades. She even began to relax a bit from the effects of her virgin scotch and was in good spirits by the time that Paul, gently reminded by his mother, made his final bedtime round of the room, kissing the women on the cheek and giving his father a hug.

“It’s nice to see him so happy like that”, said Grandma as she and Olivetta stood at the door to leave.

“Yes it is” agreed Paul’s mother.

“Have him stop by to see us tomorrow before he starts out”, said Olivetta.

“Oh, I will. But I don’t think I will have to remind him. You’re his favorite aunt.”

For the briefest of moments Olivetta looked unsettled, and then she beamed.

“Take care, now”, said Paul’s mother as the two women went down the stairs.

She stood on the landing listening to them descend. She heard the television go on in her living room and the thump of Paul’s father pushing back the reclining chair. She waited for the click-bang of the security door opening and closing in the lobby, and then she went back into the apartment.

“I’m going to check on Paul. Do you want anything?”

“No thanks, Hun.”

She went to Paul’s room and silently opened the door and let herself in. His room had the familiar smell of boysweat and incense. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she realized with a start that she was lying there on his back wearing costume and mitre, hands folded over his chest. She came closer, caught her breath and waited in the diffuse night-light coming in through the drawn curtains. His chest moved. Silly, she said to herself and she reached down and carefully removed the hat and then lifted him gently by the shoulders and pulled him up to the pillow. He sighed and snorted once, but didn’t wake up. She gazed into his sleeping face for a moment. Then she stood up and glancing around the room at his vast collection of religious paraphernalia (Holy Hardware, her husband called it) she murmured, my son, my strange little boy, and at that moment felt a welling in her chest of affection and pride. She glanced back at his face and his little hand that now clutched the edge of his robe. With a thoughtful look, she turned and left the room.

“Darling”, she said, as she entered the living room “come sit on the sofa with me.”

Halloween dawned and Paul could hardly eat his breakfast for his excitement. His father offered to drive him to school that morning, since he had both his books and the bags with his costume.

“I know you’re excited, but take care that you don’t wake your mother on the way out.”

Paul’s costume was the hit of the school costume party. The nuns would not let him put on the dangerous loose slippers, but they took him from room to room to show him off, ending up at the principal’s office. The principal herself took him to the rectory to show the pastor. Interrupted by this unexpected intrusion on his meditations, Pastor Fahey quickly put down his magazine, stubbed out his cigarette, and threw on a black coat over his dickey and white sleeves.

“Why it’s Zora the Snake Charmer!” he exclaimed with a smile. “Wonderful!”

“No”, said the principal in the clipped tone that the pastor found so damned intimidating. “This is St. Patrick.”

“Ah. The snakes. The mitre. The green. Did your mother make you this costume?”

Paul was in utter awe at his first visit to the pastor’s own office in the pastor’s own house. This was the very room to which his grandfather had been summoned for a friendly chat with the old pastor, Father O’Naill. His grandfather had been a large red-faced man, the pastor a small dark man. But when his shaken grandfather had emerged from the interview, he found that his desire for alcohol had diminished to such a degree that Grandma never again had to call a desk sergeant on a Sunday morning to find out what Grandpa wanted to have for dinner that evening. Paul mumbled something.

“What’s that, my son?”

Paul blushed and stammered, “Yes, father."

"Well, it’s Halloween and you deserve a treat." The priest glanced at the pack of cigarettes on his desk and realized that he didn’t have anything at hand to give the boy.

"Wait", he said "I’ll look in my box of treats."

He walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a shoebox, the church lost and found for non-clothing items of some value. He rummaged hopefully through the key chains, smelling salts, dentures, wedding rings; a brown object that he realized with a wince was a sap; a pipe; something, something…

"Ah, here we are." The priest flashed an impish smile at the principal and pulled out an exquisite sterling cross on a chain; French workmanship and style, very old.

The principal’s jaw dropped open.

"Um, don’t you think the owner will miss that?"

"Probably would. But my predecessors used to keep a log of this stuff and I happen to know that this item has been sitting in this box since Prohibition. Who better to give it to than the Patron Saint of Ireland?"

The old nun started to say something, then clamped her jaw shut as she enviously watched the smiling priest hand the cross to the delighted boy. The boy mumbled something.

"What’s that, my son?"

"Thank you, father."

The nun touched the boy’s shoulder and they turned towards the door. But Paul stopped and whispered something to the nun.

"What? Well, ask him yourself."

"Father, can I have the blessing?"

"Um, sure." Father Fahey had forgotten that all Catholic children wanted the blessing as often as possible, which is why it would take him up to 30 minutes to walk across the small schoolyard if he was stupid enough to try to do it during recess.

"I bless you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

"Amen", said Paul.

Paul reported to his Grandma’s promptly after school. Cabbage, carrots and potatoes boiled away in Grandma’s nightly rendition of the Irish flag, and her antiquated broiler had already raised the overall temperature of the apartment by 10 degrees. Olivetta was there and Paul proudly showed both women his new cross that he was now wearing.

"Very nice" said Olivetta. "I buried my mother in one just like it. Very nice."

Olivetta presented Paul with a green cloth trick or treat bag that complemented his outfit. Grandma secured the gold slippers to his insteps with rubber bands and declared the costume complete. Then at Paul’s request, she sent Paul next door to show Julia, Olivetta following primly behind.

The door of the Julia’s apartment was ajar and they heard the banging of the steam radiators inside.

"Flagellating herself, no doubt" said Julia under her breath. They knocked, then knocked again, and then pushed the door open and called in.

The first thing that appeared was the horses charging sound of Julia’s blind 24 year old bulldog Popo, who heard the call with his one remaining ear and came bouncing into the kitchen on his toes, barking his biteless bark. He headed toward what he remembered as the front door and, as usual, missed, crashing into the wall beside. This did not dampen his enthusiasm. Behind lumbered Julia, yelling "Popo, POPO, Blessed John of the Cross!" She stopped when she saw Paul standing there and letting out a yelp of delight she came forward and gave him a crushing cellulite flapping embrace.

"Look at you! The very image of a young Pius X!" she said, causing Paul to marvel at the thought of a 12-year-old pope.

"Come in; come in, both of you. Popo put that bandage down and go to your room, bad dog!"

Paul bent down to scratch Popo’s head, which was the only part of its body not covered with tumors or shingles. It panted with delight, sticking out its tongue and flapping it in Paul’s general direction. Popo was a miracle dog and despite its weekly trip to the vet, whose initial advice to Julia was always "Kill it", he continued on a diet of ground sirloin and steroids. Julia played her own part as well. When she made Popo his morning cup of coffee (cream, one lump) she’d sprinkle in a few drops of Fatima water.

"Dog’s looking better" said Olivetta, pointedly. "What’s that stuck to his leg?"

"Blessed Arnaldo of Padua. Popo was having some arthritis pains. He’s better now with the codeine, but I can’t seem to get the holy card off."

Paul stood up and Julia patted him on the cheek.

"St. Patrick" she said. "Very good. You make the costume, Julia? I like the snakes. Those snakes ate a lot of people before St. Patrick took care of them. But doesn’t St. Patrick carry a crozier?"

Paul remembered that indeed he did.

"Hold on."

Julia waddled over to a shallow closet that used to hold a folding ironing board. She opened it and rummaging amongst brooms, mops and umbrellas, she emerged with an 18th century gilded bishop’s crozier.

"Here, Pauli."

"Where on earth did you get that thing?" said Olivetta.

"Uh, it was my great grandfather’s. But," she said, casting a glance at Olivetta, "it’s not what you might think."

"I’m not thinking anything." said Olivetta, distractedly bending to scratch Popo and pulling back her hand suddenly, alarmed. "Ah, we’d better let Paul go on his way" she said.

"Yeah. Oh you look so cute, like a little pope."

Julia tweaked his cheek so hard he saw stars. She reached into a bowl on the table and took out a handful of colorfully wrapped candies with foreign words on them and stuffed them into Paul’s bag.

"Good luck. Have fun and watch out for strangers" she said. "Olivetta, please go tell Jane to come over after dinner for a cup of coffee. You too."

"Okay" said Olivetta. "Have fun Paul."

And with that, he was out in the hallway beginning his long descent to the street.
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#4 of 24 Old 10-02-2006, 08:07 PM
 
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You're right, Red, sorry!! I will try to get on line tomorrow to comment on yours from last week and Unagidon's this week. The nanny is here tomorrow, so I'll actually have a little quiet time, and maybe even get to write!

Sorry for my absenteeism,
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#5 of 24 Old 10-03-2006, 11:04 PM - Thread Starter
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I love it! I think the first sentence is fine.
....................................

Quote:
If Italians were officially despised by Paul’s Irish relatives, everyone in his family seemed to have at least one Italian best friend. His grandmother Jane had two. Olivetta, a spinster who had held onto it to care for her mother until the old crone had died at the age of 83 after a 47 year long illness, was Grandma’s cemetery friend. Olivetta’s mother had thrown her house into perpetual mourning after Olivetta’s father had been killed in an industrial accident that no one would talk about when Olivetta was three.

["that no one would talk about when Olivetta was three" makes it sound like they talked about it other times. Just rearrange the sentence a bit, maybe "had been killed when Olivetta was three in an industrial..."]

“He died from drowning after he fell into a giant vat of chocolate at the Cocobar factory” admitted his mother one day as she dipped a Christmas cookie into her scotch. “He was badly chopped up by the machine. At the wake, you could smell the nougat through the closed coffin.”[very nice touch!]

The man’s wife had never forgiven him for having had such a ridiculous death. But she made the best of it in traditional Italian style and became a perpetual widow. The rooms were darkened and black crepe was hung around a startled looking husband [I'd throw the word 'portrait' in here somewhere]hanging over the fireplace in the living room. This was the home environment of the three-year-old Olivetta, who decorated her own dollhouse in deep mourning to the approval of her mother. As she grew up, she carried the somber darkness of her house with her in a tight lipped and dignified manner, wrapping herself in the thick rich shadows of death and the creamy nougat center of perpetual mourning. [Excellent phrasing!]She lived the destiny given to her as the daughter of a man who had been transformed into a chocolate bar before his time.

Grandma’s hobby was going to wakes. Olivetta’s hobby was going to the cemetery. When they finally found each other through the incense mists of a First Saturday Sorrowful Mother Novena, this happy confluence of possibilities made them realize how much they stood to expand each other’s horizons.

Grandma found Olivetta’s perpetual dourness and the quiet reverence of her superstitions familiar and comforting. She viewed with admiration the pale kohl eyed statues and sexless portraits of saints and Madonnas that Olivetta’s mother had used to decorate their house. Though Grandma had once glimpsed a more robust, muscular, manly portrait of Christ through Olivetta’s bedroom door one day, she took it as a sign of the peculiar if muted fire of the intensity of Olivetta’s own internal religious feelings.
{either leave out the 'once' or 'one day']

Olivetta taught Grandma how to decorate a grave. In the days when cemeteries were hand mowed by vacationing high school boys, a Catholic cemetery was a patchwork of thousands of well kept little islands. Olivetta brushed aside Grandma’s feeble clumps of faded petunias and mums and soon Grandpa’s grave was a veritable Amazon basin of jade plants, African violets and baby’s breath. This business of grave farming was hard work and Olivetta was a stern taskmaster. Three times a week they would take the bus, bucket and spades in hand in order to perform the necessary maintenance. Grandma sometimes said that she seemed to be giving Grandpa far more attention now than when he was alive, but upon reflection she had to admit that she liked him better now that he had stopped drinking. The high point of her summer that first year was when the Italian widow who tended the Pirelli complex eight plots over paused to look at Grandpa’s grave during one of her endless trips to the nearby pump for water to wash the tombstones. Inspecting the plot with a cold shrewd eye, she had glanced up at Paul‘s grandmother, frowned, nodded slowly, and moved on. [great imagery.]

Grandma taught Olivetta the finer points of wake going. Whereas Olivetta’s prior practice had been to walk in, greet the family, kneel at the coffin, pray, step out of the way for ten minutes looking fondly at the corpse before greeting the family again and leaving, Grandma showed her how pressing the hand of the corpse firmly in one’s own while mumbling the prayer in a semi-audible manner not only showed the deceased a greater level of sincerity, it instilled a stronger feeling of actual participation in the event. Olivetta was squeamish at first, but when she discovered that she could take a dead person by the hand with dignity, she began to enjoy herself. She also secretly fancied that she might be able to meet men at the wakes, good men, since the bad men that her mother had told her about were likely out at bars and pursuing loose women through the streets. The fact that most of the men that Olivetta met at wakes were dead didn’t discourage her. She had been waiting for the right man now for almost 50 years and she knew that it was just a matter of time.

Grandma’s other Italian friend was Julia, who lived down the hall from her. Julia was an entirely different kind of Italian, which she herself attributed to the fact that she a real Italian from Sicily whereas Olivetta was an uptight northerner from Naples. Julia was earthy, energetic and primitive in her superstitions, a widow whose exhausted husband had finally departed with joy years before. When Julia had a headache, she would appear at the door to Grandma’s horrified delight with a holy card taped to her forehead. She wore several rosaries around her neck, which clicked clacked as she maneuvered her 300-pound frame gracefully about the furniture, muttering incantations against Satan, who seemed to be around every corner. Paul loved her apartment. Unlike Olivetta’s with its cold whisper of marble and holy water, Julia’s was a hot monastic charnel house in Palermo. Her saint pictures suffered in glorious full color, her saint statues writhed. Paul’s [who IS Paul?]favorite was an almost life sized painting of what he called Jesus Inside Out, a gory bleeding sacred heart Christ whose chest looked like it had been ripped open by a giant bird. This hung over the kitchen table.

The best Christ that Grandma could offer was a blonde, blue-eyed gentle Christ done in 3-D, a Garden of Gethsemane Jesus perpetually blinking as though He had something in His eye. Julia didn’t like this Christ and would constantly try to spice up Grandma’s devotional life by bringing her statues of stoned, flogged and flailed saints that she had relatives send her from Sicily.

“Got you a Saint Sebastian. I got three already you can have this one for the living room.” She unwrapped the plaster Technicolor saint rolling its eyes in divine resignation at the 24 arrows sticking out of his body.

Grandma kept these statues in a discrete place on a sort of devotional altar she had made on the top of the old dead radio console the family had used before the war. Together they looked like the disoriented survivors of a plane crash. Paul loved this altar and when he was a child he would linger by it, hoping that God would talk to him through the radio.

It was not surprising that all this vivid Catholicism influenced Paul. From an early age his grandmother would take him to Mass, then in Latin. [I think we could have used a little more info on Paul earlier on.] While the priest droned the sacred mysteries, Grandma would review her massive collection of holy cards culled from countless wakes. Paul was allowed to look at the pictures. When he got older, Grandma gave him a few of her doubles to keep in his little missal. He became an avid collector of holy cards, in the way that other boys collected stamps or baseball cards, and in due time he had also collected a group of pale boys from his parochial school who shared his hobby. Male adults in Paul’s family would come into the living room and see the group of boys sitting on the carpet busily trading cards and comparing notes, and they would smile until they noticed that the players on the cards were holding orbs and crosses and were wearing mitres. Paul’s father decided to nip this in the bud by buying Paul a fielder’s glove. This glove was of such high quality and so expensive that the street boys who saw first the skinny pale stranger carry it to their lot put him in center field. There, at the sharp crack of the bat, Paul raised the wonderful glove and was hit in the forehead by the speeding ball so hard, it knocked him all the way back onto the living room floor with his collection. Later that day his parents, thinking from the silence in the house that Paul might not be feeling well, opened his bedroom door quietly, and saw him on his knees before a statue of the Infant of Prague, a rosary in his hand and four around his neck, a holy card taped to his aching forehead. They closed his door discretely and as Paul’s father led his quietly sobbing mother away he said, “Don’t worry Hun, we’ll send him to a Jesuit school. That will knock the religion out of him.”

{This paragraph is long. Maybe you could cut it in two? OCuld just be the little box I'm reading it in!]

Grandma thought that Paul’s piety was a bit overdone, but Julia was delighted with him. She loaded him with frequent gifts of religious medals. Paul liked to put all of them on at the same time sometimes and when he would come out into the living room with them, Paul’s father would say to his mother “Here comes Father Superpimp from the Vatican again.” Julia felt that Paul should be a priest and she took it upon herself to educate him about theology and The Church, explaining, for example, that the current occupant of the papal throne was an imposter, a non-Italian put there in place of the kidnapped authentic pope by the Jews and German Lutherans who were behind Vatican II. When Paul proudly pulled out the ‘before and after’ photos proving her theory that Julia had given him for Show and Tell at his catechism class, he had burst into tears when the smiling nun had suddenly ejaculated a blasphemy and rushed forward to him, covering him with her voluminous brown scapular.

{Ok, ejaculated caught my eye, and I wasn't thinking of blasphemy, at least not that kind. Mostly it confused me because the nun is smiling. I think you should rework the part about the nun and use anther word..]

Although Julia was as enthusiastic about wakes as Grandma, Grandma avoided taking her. Julia tended to get broken up and sentimental in the presence of a body and she would invariably end up throwing herself on top of it, crying loudly with her face pressed against the decedent’s chest. This would have been only barely passable at an Irish wake if she had actually known the dead person in real life. But since Grandma went to any wake that looked promising from her daily reading of the obituaries, this was usually not the case. Year’s [no apostrophe]later, when Julia came to Paul’s mother’s wake, she launched herself moaning from the very door of the mortuary chapel, waddling rapidly down the aisle at full speed and grabbing Paul’s mother’s shoulders so forcefully that she dislodged the layers of padding that the undertaker had used to build up the dead woman’s diseased and emaciated body. While Julia sobbed on her chest, Paul had to go to the undertaker’s office to fetch him saying “A mourner, well, um, there was a bit of disruption to my mother, and…” to which the undertaker jumped to his feet, and straightening his tie, muttered a single exasperated ‘Italians’ as he whisked past Paul to the chapel, Paul following. [ 'Paul following" is awkward] A crowd of American Legion Auxiliaries was [were?]consoling Julia by the holy card table. The undertaker stood over the corpse and after a discrete glance over his left shoulder, reached down and decisively grabbed Paul’s mother’s breasts and snapped them back into place. He stepped back slightly to admire his work and then, stroking her hair once he turned to a deeply awed Paul and winked.
Bedtime! I'll get the rest tomorrow.
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#6 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 12:12 AM
 
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How can I say this??

I am not posting because when I posted some of a story I am working on (was) I didn't specify the kind of feedback I wished to recieve. I needed more technical feedback, and had specific questions that I planned to ask, but I was given opinions on my personal style of writing, the names I chose, etc.

I would've benefited more by more specific *reasons* why the names I chose didn't work for the giver of the feedback (can't remember who) I would've liked to be asked questions about why I may have chosen names (for instance) the answer is that the story was set in Scotland and I researched names from that time period and the area (all were authentic except one).

This is not just about the 'name' issue, but also about the yucky way I felt after reading the feedback. I can take constructive critisism, and the feedback I recieved felt like more of an attack on my way of writing (in general) which can be considered a 'style' opinion.

I really like the kind of feedback that Red gives. It is specific yet honest. It offers opinions on the aspects of the work, not the personal style of the writer.

I am deleting my story because I feel vulnerable to have it out there

That is why I'm not participating (and I really AM a good sport..it just deflated my resolve)

Of course it doesn't help that my writers group got cancelled

Maybe I will post something else sometime and ask for more specific feedback.

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#7 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 07:43 AM
 
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How can I say this??

I am not posting because when I posted some of a story I am working on (was) I didn't specify the kind of feedback I wished to recieve. I needed more technical feedback, and had specific questions that I planned to ask, but I was given opinions on my personal style of writing, the names I chose, etc.

I would've benefited more by more specific *reasons* why the names I chose didn't work for the giver of the feedback (can't remember who) I would've liked to be asked questions about why I may have chosen names (for instance) the answer is that the story was set in Scotland and I researched names from that time period and the area (all were authentic except one).

This is not just about the 'name' issue, but also about the yucky way I felt after reading the feedback. I can take constructive critisism, and the feedback I recieved felt like more of an attack on my way of writing (in general) which can be considered a 'style' opinion.

I really like the kind of feedback that Red gives. It is specific yet honest. It offers opinions on the aspects of the work, not the personal style of the writer.

I am deleting my story because I feel vulnerable to have it out there

That is why I'm not participating (and I really AM a good sport..it just deflated my resolve)

Of course it doesn't help that my writers group got cancelled

Maybe I will post something else sometime and ask for more specific feedback.

Hello. Hope you are not mad at me for some reason. I'm brand new here and have had some trouble finding my way around and getting a handle on the rules. If you post your story again, please let me know. I would love to look at it.
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#8 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Kelly,

I'm sorry your feelings were hurt when you posted your story! I wondered if that was why I hadn't seen you about!

First we ALL need to remember to ask for feedback, or not and to SAY, 'positive feedback only' (or as Mum used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.") or 'all feed back welcome', or 'RIP INTO IT'!

And, to all feedback givers!: REMEMBER, this writing your looking over is someones BABY! You wouldn't tell a mother her baby's hair is the wrong color, or that her baby has a HUGE nose, right? But if asked specifically about the hugeness of the childs nose, you might say, "Goodness, with all those beautiful dark ringlets and those incredible sea green eyes, I never noticed her nose! She'll probably grow into it."

So, you MIGHT say, "I love your description of the ocean, the waves breaking, how you captured the feel of the wind. I'd change the beginning to put that all first. Then maybe you could have the heroine ask for help from a neighbor, it's hard to believe she'd ask the spaceman. And I don't understand where the spaceman came from or why he's there. The part about the fire in the attic was fantastic." Sandwich what you THINK needs to be fixed between two things you like. Makes the author feel her baby's beauty was recognized, and gives her (or him) a chance to improve their work. And you don't say, "Take out the spaceman, he confused me." Just not your place.

There is a feedback sticky.

Kelly, could we call this a learning experience for everyone involved? We'd love to have your writing back!
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#9 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 10:33 AM
 
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Unagidon,

Don't worry, it wasn't you. The comments were mine. My intention was not to deflate anyone, but when we started this my understanding was that we were in it for the honest truth. Perhaps we jumped in without providing any guidelines about what type of critiques to offer and how to structure them.

BelovedK, there is no way I could have known that your novel was set in Scotland in a particular period. You didn't provide any background or brief description of what you were going for with your piece. You asked for honest feedback, but then didn't like mine. I'm sorry to have scared you away from the thread.

I did offer a positive critique about one section, which was particularly vivid and I thought would have made a better jumping off point. I tried to point out that section as having a clearer, easier style than the other sections. But, I don't understand why critiques cannot address the issue of writing style.

personally, I joined not because I want everyone to love what I'm writing, but because I wanted some hard truth to help me raise twilight girl from an idea into a novel.

Again, sorry to have chased you off, BelovedK. Come back, I won't comment on your posts anymore.

Judi
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#10 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 10:41 AM
 
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Unagidon,

I've got nothing. I LOVE your piece. I haven't been able to read the whole thing, because I have pack for a trip NOW!!

But, I love it. Love your style, love the imagery (I live in Costa Rica now, and lived in Boston's North End, and my grandmother-in-law is Irish, so the whole Catholic saint thing really resonates!!), love the dialogue. Can't wait to see you published!!!

Judi
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#11 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 12:35 PM
 
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Unagidon,

Couple of technical notes:

"She went to Paul’s room and silently opened the door and let herself in. His room had the familiar smell of boysweat and incense. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she realized with a start that she [should be HE] was lying there on his back wearing costume and mitre, hands folded over his chest.

"The door of the Julia’s apartment was ajar and they heard the banging of the steam radiators inside.

"Flagellating herself, no doubt" said Julia under her breath. They knocked, then knocked again, and then pushed the door open and called in."

Shouldn't this be someone else saying this about Julia? Probably Olivetta?

Anyhoo, love it. Please read over it carefully for typos and such.
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#12 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 01:18 PM
 
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sorry to have chased you off, BelovedK. Come back, I won't comment on your posts anymore.
Judi, I will work on my story some more and post. You are welcome to give feedback, for some reason, my feelings were hurt and I felt vulnerable. I am usually thick skinned, but my skin grew thin

I value all feedback. I guess I would rather have technical feedback, and not so much about my particular style of writing. I have learned to give more info on the type of FB I wish to receive, and more background. I have been writing this story in bits and pieces from different areas of the story (I work from index cards) It would be confusing to just throw out a segment of the story out of context to the rest...maybe not for this thread. I suppose the next task for myself will be to put things in order, organize the parts I've written.

I didn't mean to come across like I did.

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#13 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 06:32 PM
 
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Hi, BelovedK,

We will be glad to see you back. I guess, bear with me if my criticisms are too hard, like you said, you're putting your book together much like movies are filmed : not necessarily in sequence. So, sometimes, not having the background info can lead to confusion.

I'll try to keep in mind the kind of FB you're looking for for future comments

No harm, no foul
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#14 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 07:01 PM
 
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I've not posted because I've had a bit of block all summer. I'm working on another what if piece right now and it's only on page two, but I'll post what I have once I get it typed up. It's in a notebook right now since that's where I do most of my writing these days {and until I get my laptop at Christmas, since I can't write out in the kitchen cove where I keep my office}
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No harm, no foul

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#16 of 24 Old 10-04-2006, 11:26 PM
 
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Yay! There's peace again in the group

Now, I am woefully deficient in my progress thus far. The only thing I've managed to do is add a little more to the opening dialogue.

Here's what I've added so far. Don't know if the dialogue is working naturally ...

“Hey! Did you just hear that? No Doubt on the radio?” His thick Scottish accent made it difficult for almost anyone who spoke English to understand him. But I had known him so long now, I could make out about every second or third word.

“Hey. Did you... I was just calling you. What do you mean did I hear it?” I demanded. I really didn’t expect that he would remember a poem I had scrawled out in pencil in a bar one night and sheepishly handed to him the next day.

“Well, what do you think?” I flinched at the anticipation of the answer. Neil took great care, it seemed, to conceal anything that might belie his St. Andrews degree in Classics. He painstakingly maintained a thoroughly disheveled dress, and his hair was wont to be blue or purple or sometimes just absent. Neil, I knew, would be brutally honest. But more than that, he had the education to back it up.

“Certainly not classical,” he began. “Raw emotion, makes a point. This would rock as a song, you know?”

“Your poem, or whatever you call it. That song is practically verbatim! Remember? I did tell you it would rock as a song, didn’t I then?” he replied, utterly unimpressed that a band I had never met was singing a song I wrote. Singing a song scrawled on a piece of paper that had never seen the light of day.

“Neil, you do get how weird this is, don’t you?” I questioned.

“Yeahr, of course—“ he began.

“Shit, Neil! Did you take that and do something with it?” I didn’t like the shrill, screech my voice took on. I came across practically rabid. Attempting composure, I relaunched, “Did you? Did you take that and give it to someone? Oh, shit, Neil, of course you did! How else—“

“Slow down, sister. I’ve never even given that poem another thought since you showed it to me. And, really, how would I get it? You keep everything you do buried in that fuckin’ shoebox,” heat creeped into cheeks. Next he would start in on his familiar rant about me not taking my writing to any next level, blah, blah. “Your arse is out the window on this one, darling,” he scolded.

“My what?” Scottish expressions. “I don’t know what that means, really, but I think you’re giving me shit.”

“It means you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree, love. You know I know about the shoebox, but I’ve never actually seen it, have I? Let alone touched it or taken anything from it.”

“So, what is this, then? Coincidence?” I was still trying to make sense of what I’d just heard. Those really were my words coming from someone else’s mouth. “Call up the other station for me Neil. Ask them to play it so I can hear it again.”

“Alright, but I’m calling from your place. You decent? You have coffee? I’ll be there in a minute and I’ve got potato scones. Me mum made some before she left yesterday and I’ll share them with you.” He hung up.

I let the phone drop back down onto the cradle and pushed my palms against my eyes until there was only black, and blue ghosts of images. What sense did this make? Nothing to do but wait for Neil. He lived in a flat on the other side of the Buttery, a little greasy spoon between us where we met. I’d flatter him and say he was my closest friend, but truthfully, he was the only one. So far, I’d managed not to parrot his accent, but some of his words and phrases were slipping their way into my daily vocabulary, and before I’d realize it, I’d say something like flat, instead of apartment. People probably take that as pretentious, but really, I might as well have been living in Scotland. He was my only social outlet, so I was in a kind of cultural immersion, without ever leaving home. I hope he never decides to up and go back to Scotland. Maybe I should get a passport, just in case.

The buzzer jerked me back into the moment, and I buzzed Neil in the street door.
***********************************
Not huge progress, but at least it was pen to paper, so to speak.
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#17 of 24 Old 10-07-2006, 03:23 PM
 
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Dear Twilight Girl,

Your writing style is complex, but you have the talent and more to carry it off. It is interesting to me to contrast your complex style to Red’s simple style. It is also interesting to me to see how your style relates to the story you are trying to tell. There is really no action whatsoever, and you are going to concentrate on the pure interaction between the two people in your romance. Please be careful to make sure that you don’t make her fears and desires make her seem weak. She is very strong and I am looking forward to some witty conversation between these two in the future. Also, make sure that he talks to her and not at her. What I mean here (and I may not be able to express it well) is that his dialogue needs to be for her not just to her. Please post more.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

“Hey! Did you just hear that? No Doubt on the radio?” His thick Scottish accent made it difficult for almost anyone who spoke English to understand him. But I had known him so long now, I could make out about every second or third word.

[You have quickly and skillfully set up your narrator here as a character in her description of his accent. She sounds strong and witty. The wittiness comes out because for whatever reason we the readers can understand every word he is saying and so, in fact, can she. You have also set a certain space between her and the Scotsman. They are not lovers, at least not yet. There is irreverence in her attitude about him that you are now going to have to carry on. But is there therefore a respect or a lack of respect?

You have what I think is a technical problem here with your “No Doubt on the radio.” I think that No Doubt is supposed to be the name of a poem, but even having read the entire piece a couple of times I am still not entirely sure. You did capitalize it, but I read it (and I would expect most people would read it) in this sense: “Did you hear that, no doubt on the radio?” So you need him in this first sentence to tell us something about the poem, like “Did you hear that? That poem of yours, No Doubt, on the fecking radio?” (Also, when you say “just” hear that, you are implying that they are in the room together and listening to something together. At the very least, he, even if they were not together, he would have to absolutely know that she was listening to the same radio station he was at the same time. But I don’t think that’s the case, so you should consider dropping the “just”.]

“Hey. Did you... I was just calling you. What do you mean did I hear it?” I demanded. I really didn’t expect that he would remember a poem I had scrawled out in pencil in a bar one night and sheepishly handed to him the next day.

[I think that with “Hey. Did you…” you are trying to have her start her side of the call in a natural way (and it is a natural way) where she hears his voice and leads in with something that is on her mind first. But here, since he is calling her with some kind of breathless news, it doesn’t quite work, because you are making her ignore his emotional state as well as what he is saying. It would work if he was just calling to say hello. I think it might be better to give her an inarticulate reaction to his emotion (and the fact that she will not have digested what he says at the first second). I think you could just have her say “Oh. I was just calling you. What? What do you mean did I hear it?” Sort of the equivalent of a literary double take.

“Well, what do you think?” I flinched at the anticipation of the answer. Neil took great care, it seemed, to conceal anything that might belie his St. Andrews degree in Classics. He painstakingly maintained a thoroughly disheveled dress, and his hair was wont to be blue or purple or sometimes just absent. Neil, I knew, would be brutally honest. But more than that, he had the education to back it up.

[I think I know what you are trying to do here. This is apparently a flashback, but it comes in so suddenly that the italics aren’t enough to indicate it. Just say ‘I had said’ after “Well what do you think?”

Say ‘his answer’ rather than ‘the answer’, because there may be an answer in general (it’s good, it sucks, whatever) but you are focusing on the answer that he himself is going to give.

Delete “it seemed”. Neil is trying to project a certain image and she knows it, because you have established her in your first paragraph as the kind of person who would know it. You also tell us that she knows (not thinks) that he has painstakingly maintained the image. Be very careful here, though, because you are revealing something else about your character here and this paragraph is carrying a great deal of weight. When one character describes another, the passage tells us about both of them. You are telling us here that Neil’s opinion has a lot of weight with her. But why? Is she insecure or does his opinion have the weight of a respected equal? If she is insecure, why? Your first paragraph implies that Neil is at least an equal, if not a “character” that she seems to know. Here, it looks to me like something else is going on. You say something later that makes me think that these two may become lovers. But she seems childlike here and adult like in the first paragraph (if I can try to put an image to it). She can, in fact, be both, but we need more development for this to work in this small a space.

Your description of Neil, by the way, is wonderful and natural.

Now having said all of this, you have another problem here. There is the question of the poem but there is the bigger and more immediate question of what her poem is doing on the radio. You have her having a flashback before she reacts to this bigger news. So you also need to move the flashback section below the paragraph that ends “…that had never seen the light of day.” In fact, you might a start your flashback with its second paragraph in it, his answer, then follow with the first paragraph of you giving the poem to him and being worried about what he thinks. If you do this, you might want to punch up his answer just a bit because the way you have it now does not quite convey the academic qualities of his that you are stressing.

The whole thing could look something like this:

[[

“Your poem, or whatever you call it. That song is practically verbatim! Remember? I did tell you it would rock as a song, didn’t I then?” he replied, utterly unimpressed that a band I had never met was singing a song I wrote. Singing a song scrawled on a piece of paper that had never seen the light of day.

“Certainly not classical,” he [had said] began. “Raw emotion, makes a point. This would rock as a song, you know?”

[I had asked him] “Well, what do you think?” [and had] flinched [in] anticipation of the answer. Neil took great care to conceal anything that might belie his St. Andrews degree in Classics. He painstakingly maintained a thoroughly disheveled dress, and his hair was wont to be blue or purple or sometimes just absent. Neil, I knew, would be brutally honest. But more than that, he had the education to back it up.

]]

Something like that.]


“Your poem, or whatever you call it. That song is practically verbatim! Remember? I did tell you it would rock as a song, didn’t I then?” he replied, utterly unimpressed that a band I had never met was singing a song I wrote. Singing a song scrawled on a piece of paper that had never seen the light of day.

“Neil, you do get how weird this is, don’t you?” I questioned.

“Yeahr, of course—“ he began.

“Shit, Neil! Did you take that and do something with it?” I didn’t like the shrill, screech my voice took on. I came across practically rabid. Attempting composure, I relaunched, “Did you? Did you take that and give it to someone? Oh, shit, Neil, of course you did! How else—“

[This is good. But be careful here again. It is good that you have made her self conscious about her emotions, but be careful then not to make her actual words sound too shrill. You are telling us that she is self conscious and you have implied that she is motivated to practice some sort of self control with this man. So how she does it and to what degree she does it is important here… and tricky. One way you might do it is to put an emotional space between “…to someone.? and “Oh shit…” You might have her say the second thing calmly, since she is switching from emotion to rationality to express what is nonetheless a stong emotion. So have her pause or dsay or do something here to change gears.”]

“Slow down, sister. I’ve never even given that poem another thought since you showed it to me. And, really, how would I get it? You keep everything you do buried in that fuckin’ shoebox,” heat creeped into cheeks. Next he would start in on his familiar rant about me not taking my writing to any next level, blah, blah. “Your arse is out the window on this one, darling,” he scolded.

[Very good dialogue once again. You need him to say something like “And I handed it back to you, didn’t I?”, because the last thing you told the reader about it was that she did, in fact, hand it to him and as far as the reader is concerned, Neil still has it. Better yet, you could go back and have her read it to him or tell it to him.

Also, if this passage is him still talking on the phone, she would not know that heat was coming to his cheeks. So you need insert something here like “she could imagine the heat creeping into his cheeks. Next he would…” ]

“My what?” Scottish expressions. “I don’t know what that means, really, but I think you’re giving me shit.”

[Your character would know what this means. She wouldn’t use it herself and she may just be hearing it for the first time, but you have established her as a person who would know. You might have her say something more like “My what is out the what?” She could then go on to say “I don’t know…” but here its sense would be more ironic.]

“It means you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree, love. You know I know about the shoebox, but I’ve never actually seen it, have I? Let alone touched it or taken anything from it.”

[If you do what I said above, he would not have to say “It means…” but he could and should say the rest.]

“So, what is this, then? Coincidence?” I was still trying to make sense of what I’d just heard. Those really were my words coming from someone else’s mouth. “Call up the other station for me Neil. Ask them to play it so I can hear it again.”

[Now you imply that for some reason Neil and your narrator were listening to the same radio program at the same time from different places. If you want to really do it, you have to set this up at the beginning. However, I don’t think that your narrative needs you to do this. It would be a distracting and overly complex addition unless you needed them to repeat this again later for some other reason.

Might be simpler to just say: “So, what is this, then? Coincidence? Call up the other station for me Neil. Ask them to play it so I can hear it [too] again.”]

“Alright, but I’m calling from your place. You decent? You have coffee? I’ll be there in a minute and I’ve got potato scones. Me mum made some before she left yesterday and I’ll share them with you.” He hung up.

[A Scot more likely would say Right instead of Alright. Your Scot would not say “me mum” because he is educated. In fact, you have to be careful because you have portrayed him as educated but you have him trying to hide it. For Brits in general, if he is really trying to hide it, he will also be trying to hide the way he talks. “Me mum” is too prole for your guy unless he is either trying to talk like a prole all the time or he is angry or upset and is reverting to some sort of working class roots.

You DON”T want to write Neil’s dialogue in “ethnic” style because this is almost impossible to do well. You have said that he has a thick accent, but he doesn’t talk like a person who has a thick accent, so you should consider that what your character was really saying about his “thick” accent (and here it is your character talking to me because you have given her a such strong birth; isn’t it wonderful when they take on a life of their own?) is that she teases him about what is actually his rather weak Scottish accent in order to rib him about his pretensions in dressing down.]

I let the phone drop back down onto the cradle and pushed my palms against my eyes until there was only black, and blue ghosts of images. What sense did this make? Nothing to do but wait for Neil. He lived in a flat on the other side of the Buttery, a little greasy spoon between us where we met.

[A note here. If you say “a” greasy spoon, it means that they always meet there, among other places. If you meant that this is where they met the first time, you have to say “the”. I am making this a big deal, because each way has serious implications to the reader at this point of our acquaintance with your readers.]

I’d flatter him and say he was my closest friend, but truthfully, he was the only [friend I had] one. So far, I’d managed not to parrot his accent, but some of his words and phrases were slipping their way into my daily vocabulary, and before I’d realize it, I’d say something like flat, instead of apartment. People probably take that as pretentious, but really, I might as well have been living in Scotland. He was my only social outlet, so I was in a kind of cultural immersion, without ever leaving home. I hope he never decides to up and go back to Scotland. Maybe I should get a passport, just in case.

[Great paragraph and good setup for what follows.]

The buzzer jerked me back into the moment, and I buzzed Neil in the street door.
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#18 of 24 Old 10-07-2006, 11:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
A crowd of American Legion Auxiliaries was consoling Julia by the holy card table. The undertaker stood over the corpse and after a discrete glance over his left shoulder, reached down and decisively grabbed Paul’s mother’s breasts and snapped them back into place. He stepped back slightly to admire his work and then, stroking her hair once he turned to a deeply awed Paul and winked.

[I think 'snapped' is the wrong word here. Pushed, manhandled, rolled, something less 'sharp' YK?]

This ambiguous and disturbing wink was many years in the future from Paul’s favorite childhood memory of his mother. One 6th grade morning, he gingerly approached her as she dipped the fifth tea bag into her bracing morning cup. [This sounds as if she used 5 tea bags for ONE cup of tea. Do you meant she had already drunk 4 cups?] On a second saucer were two slices of cinnamon and butter toast and on a third saucer, placed so they would get neither buttery nor wet, were four aspirins. Paul waited until she had quaffed half of the scalding cup in one long gulp and taken a long drag from her cigarette; he knew that she didn’t really open her eyes to the world until that moment. He then presented her with his holy card and his request.

His mother listened, frowned, looked at the picture, then turned it over and said “You want to dress up as Bernard Dolan 1893 –1951, for Halloween?”

“No. As Saint Patrick. See, in the picture. He’s standing on a snake.”

His mother sighed as she gazed at the picture. She took another sip of tannin. Paul could see the thoughts pouring across her face. Cost, effort, cost, effort, cost, effort….[Is his Mom religous? Will she care about peoples reactions? HAving been raised a Catholic, I can tell you my mother would have had some other concerns besides cost and effort, though this says volumes about his mother!) Finally, to his surprise and delight, she said Yes.

“All right, I’ll do it. When’s Halloween?”

“Tomorrow.”

His mother sighed again, picked up the saucer with the aspirins, and poured them into her hand. She tossed all four into her mouth, then she took another swig of tea and held it in her mouth long enough to start dissolving the aspirin, in order to savor the bitterness. She swallowed and took a decisive drag from her cigarette.

“All right. I’ll put something together. Now you better go to school.”

“It’s Sunday, Mom.”

“Then go to church.”

Paul retreated from his mother’s morning solitude, chest tingling with victory. [I like that, 'chest tingling'] An hour later, she roused herself to action. In a cupboard with a stuck door, she found some old green curtains. From Paul’s father’s starched white shirts, lying folded at attention in their drawer she extracted several good-sized pieces of light green cardboard. She measured, cut and sewed, encouraging her reluctant long unused sewing machine like she was driving a rusty Model T down a dirt road. As the costume began to come together she found that she was enjoying herself and she entirely forgot to eat lunch. Finishing her sewing in the early afternoon, she had rushed out to Steiner’s, the local five and dime on Madison Street, for a few essential accessories. [Open on Sunday?] Returning home, she found her mother and Olivetta in her kitchen. Having been alerted by Paul that morning his mother was working at her sewing machine, they had happened to drop by. Olivetta was just drying the breakfast dishes and her mother was rinsing off what appeared to be some spades in the sink. The look of hope and joy in Paul’s face at her arrival had caused her to put aside her perturbation and she swept up the bag within which she had earlier placed the costume and taking Paul by the hand, led him to his room. [this sentence is just a little hard to figure out. Could you simplify it?]

She emerged with a “Why don’t you wait there and surprise your father” over her right shoulder as she quietly closed his door. Olivetta and Grandma were sitting quietly at the dining room table. Paul’s mother ignored them, went into the kitchen, and came out with a large cut glass tumbler filled with ice. As she snapped open the doors of the liquor cabinet, they heard the key turn in the front door as Paul’s father came in. He walked into the dining room and greeted his wife with a “Hi Hun” and the two grim women glaring at the liquor cabinet with “Hi ladies. Are we having a party?”

“Paul has something to show you” said his wife, as Paul’s door cracked open and he peeked out. “I made him a costume.”

The hat that Paul’s father was placing on the table paused in midair.

“You made him a costume?” His eyes darted to the bedroom door.

With a most pleased look on his face, a fully costumed Paul promenaded out into the dining room wearing his mother’s gold bedroom slippers. Paul’s mother ignored the gasps from the old women, and beaming with a pleasure almost as great as Paul’s own, took an ice clinking sip of her scotch.

Paul’s father was delighted too. “Nice mitre”, he said, of the beautiful green hat that almost doubled Paul’s height.

“How many snakes do you think you have there, son?”

“Over forty”, said Paul.

“Most impressive.”

But it wasn’t the snakes that impressed the two old women as much as the flamingos and palm trees that were worked into the green fabric of the saint’s regal gown and cape. Olivetta recognized the curtains that she had given as a wedding present, a fact that had slipped Paul’s mother’s mind until that very moment.
[Oh, that' just perfect!]
“I think that a drink is in order”, said Paul’s father. Paul began to shuffle around the dining room table, raising his snakes in benediction and in a low stentorian voice recited the Confiteor in Latin. As much as Grandma thought that he looked like Zora the Snake Charmer, she had to admit that he was pretty cute. Olivetta’s lips clamped together in simmering Christian charity.

“Mom”, asked Paul, interrupting his chant, “Are there any snakes in Ireland now?”

“No, sweetie”, replied his mother, pouring a real scotch for Grandma and a virgin one for Olivetta.

“No flamingos, either”, muttered Olivetta, under her breath. But this little comment was the only one she made about the costume that evening. She didn’t flinch when Paul had her try on the mitre and didn’t seem to notice when Paul’s father said that she looked like the Queen of Spades. She even began to relax a bit from the effects of her virgin scotch and was in good spirits by the time that Paul, gently reminded by his mother, made his final bedtime round of the room, kissing the women on the cheek and giving his father a hug.

“It’s nice to see him so happy like that”, said Grandma as she and Olivetta stood at the door to leave.

“Yes it is” agreed Paul’s mother.

“Have him stop by to see us tomorrow before he starts out”, said Olivetta.

“Oh, I will. But I don’t think I will have to remind him. You’re his favorite aunt.”

For the briefest of moments Olivetta looked unsettled, and then she beamed.

“Take care, now”, said Paul’s mother as the two women went down the stairs.

She stood on the landing listening to them descend. She heard the television go on in her living room and the thump of Paul’s father pushing back the reclining chair. She waited for the click-bang of the security door opening and closing in the lobby, and then she went back into the apartment.

“I’m going to check on Paul. Do you want anything?”

“No thanks, Hun.”

She went to Paul’s room and silently opened the door and let herself in. His room had the familiar smell of boysweat and incense. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she realized with a start that she was lying there on his back wearing costume and mitre, hands folded over his chest. She came closer, caught her breath and waited in the diffuse night-light coming in through the drawn curtains. His chest moved. Silly, she said to herself and she reached down and carefully removed the hat and then lifted him gently by the shoulders and pulled him up to the pillow. He sighed and snorted once, but didn’t wake up. She gazed into his sleeping face for a moment. Then she stood up and glancing around the room at his vast collection of religious paraphernalia (Holy Hardware, her husband called it) she murmured, my son, my strange little boy, and at that moment felt a welling in her chest of affection and pride. She glanced back at his face and his little hand that now clutched the edge of his robe. With a thoughtful look, she turned and left the room.

“Darling”, she said, as she entered the living room “come sit on the sofa with me.”

Halloween dawned and Paul could hardly eat his breakfast for his excitement. His father offered to drive him to school that morning, since he had both his books and the bags with his costume.

“I know you’re excited, but take care that you don’t wake your mother on the way out.”

Paul’s costume was the hit of the school costume party. The nuns would not let him put on the dangerous loose slippers, but they took him from room to room to show him off, ending up at the principal’s office. The principal herself took him to the rectory to show the pastor. Interrupted by this unexpected intrusion on his meditations, Pastor Fahey quickly put down his magazine, stubbed out his cigarette, and threw on a black coat over his dickey and white sleeves.

“Why it’s Zora the Snake Charmer!” he exclaimed with a smile. “Wonderful!”

“No”, said the principal in the clipped tone that the pastor found so damned intimidating. “This is St. Patrick.”

“Ah. The snakes. The mitre. The green. Did your mother make you this costume?”

Paul was in utter awe at his first visit to the pastor’s own office in the pastor’s own house. This was the very room to which his grandfather had been summoned for a friendly chat with the old pastor, Father O’Naill. His grandfather had been a large red-faced man, the pastor a small dark man. But when his shaken grandfather had emerged from the interview, he found that his desire for alcohol had diminished to such a degree that Grandma never again had to call a desk sergeant on a Sunday morning to find out what Grandpa wanted to have for dinner that evening. Paul mumbled something.

“What’s that, my son?”

Paul blushed and stammered, “Yes, father." [Father]

"Well, it’s Halloween and you deserve a treat." The priest glanced at the pack of cigarettes on his desk and realized that he didn’t have anything at hand to give the boy.

"Wait", he said "I’ll look in my box of treats."

He walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a shoebox, the church lost and found for non-clothing items of some value. He rummaged hopefully through the key chains, smelling salts, dentures, wedding rings; a brown object that he realized with a wince was a sap; a pipe; something, something…

"Ah, here we are." The priest flashed an impish smile at the principal and pulled out an exquisite sterling cross on a chain; French workmanship and style, very old.

The principal’s jaw dropped open.

"Um, don’t you think the owner will miss that?"

"Probably would. But my predecessors used to keep a log of this stuff and I happen to know that this item has been sitting in this box since Prohibition. Who better to give it to than the Patron Saint of Ireland?"

The old nun started to say something, then clamped her jaw shut as she enviously watched the smiling priest hand the cross to the delighted boy. The boy mumbled something.
[Delighted boys don't usually mumble]

"What’s that, my son?"

"Thank you, father."

The nun touched the boy’s shoulder and they turned towards the door. But Paul stopped and whispered something to the nun.

"What? Well, ask him yourself."

"Father, can I have the blessing?"

"Um, sure." Father Fahey had forgotten that all Catholic children wanted the blessing as often as possible, which is why it would take him up to 30 minutes to walk across the small schoolyard if he was stupid enough to try to do it during recess.

"I bless you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

[Again, I grew up Catholic. We said, ' in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.'

"Amen", said Paul.

Paul reported to his Grandma’s promptly after school. Cabbage, carrots and potatoes boiled away in Grandma’s nightly rendition of the Irish flag, and her antiquated broiler had already raised the overall temperature of the apartment by 10 degrees. Olivetta was there and Paul proudly showed both women his new cross that he was now wearing.

"Very nice" said Olivetta. "I buried my mother in one just like it. Very nice." [this is what makes this so great. All the hidden little touches!]

Olivetta presented Paul with a green cloth trick or treat bag that complemented his outfit. Grandma secured the gold slippers to his insteps with rubber bands and declared the costume complete. Then at Paul’s request, she sent Paul [ him, cause we know it's Paul and it seems repetitive.]next door to show Julia, Olivetta following primly behind.

The door of the Julia’s apartment was ajar and they heard the banging of the steam radiators inside.

"Flagellating herself, no doubt" said Julia under her breath. They knocked, then knocked again, and then pushed the door open and called in.

The first thing that appeared was the horses charging sound of Julia’s blind 24 year old bulldog Popo, who heard the call with his one remaining ear and came bouncing into the kitchen on his toes, barking his biteless bark. He headed toward what he remembered as the front door and, as usual, missed, crashing into the wall beside. This did not dampen his enthusiasm. Behind lumbered Julia, yelling "Popo, POPO, Blessed John of the Cross!" She stopped when she saw Paul standing there and letting out a yelp of delight she came forward and gave him a crushing cellulite flapping embrace.


[let out a yelp, don't know why, but it works better]
"Look at you! The very image of a young Pius X!" she said, causing Paul to marvel at the thought of a 12-year-old pope.

"Come in; come in, both of you. Popo put that bandage down and go to your room, bad dog!"

Paul bent down to scratch Popo’s head, which was the only part of its body not covered with tumors or shingles. It panted with delight, sticking out its tongue and flapping it in Paul’s general direction. Popo was a miracle dog and despite its weekly trip to the vet, whose initial advice to Julia was always "Kill it", he [ I think you should delete this 'he] continued on a diet of ground sirloin and steroids. Julia played her own part as well. When she made Popo his morning cup of coffee (cream, one lump) she’d sprinkle in a few drops of Fatima water.

[a little more description of Julia? I'm left wondering about her.]

"Dog’s looking better" said Olivetta, pointedly. "What’s that stuck to his leg?"

"Blessed Arnaldo of Padua. Popo was having some arthritis pains. He’s better now with the codeine, but I can’t seem to get the holy card off."

Paul stood up and Julia patted him on the cheek.

"St. Patrick" she said. "Very good. You make the costume, Julia? I like the snakes. Those snakes ate a lot of people before St. Patrick took care of them. But doesn’t St. Patrick carry a crozier?"

Paul remembered that indeed he did.

"Hold on."

Julia waddled over to a shallow closet that used to hold a folding ironing board. She opened it and rummaging amongst brooms, mops and umbrellas, she emerged with an 18th century gilded bishop’s crozier.

"Here, Pauli."

"Where on earth did you get that thing?" said Olivetta.

"Uh, it was my great grandfather’s. But," she said, casting a glance at Olivetta, "it’s not what you might think."

"I’m not thinking anything." said Olivetta, distractedly bending to scratch Popo and pulling back her hand suddenly, alarmed. "Ah, we’d better let Paul go on his way" she said. [at some point we readers need to know WHY o. was alarmed. I for one need to know.]

"Yeah. Oh you look so cute, like a little pope."

Julia tweaked his cheek so hard he saw stars. She reached into a bowl on the table and took out a handful of colorfully wrapped candies with foreign words on them and stuffed them into Paul’s bag.

"Good luck. Have fun and watch out for strangers" she said. "Olivetta, please go tell Jane to come over after dinner for a cup of coffee. You too."

"Okay" said Olivetta. "Have fun Paul."

[ all the dialogue until now has been stellar. THese two last bits, from 'godd luck' just don't quite sound right. Julia sort of osunds bossy, telling O. what to do. Maybe just 'please tell', leaving out the 'go'?

And with that, he was out in the hallway beginning his long descent to the street.
[he can't descend the hallway.]

I think it's great. I'm dying to get to know the characters better. THe little surprises, O's always being the one who is somehow the loser.

You told us a ot about each character in the first half of the piece, but you rely on us to remmeber the details pages later. I need a lot of reminders to keep characters straight. If you threw in teh clicking sound of Julias rosary beads while Paul is showing her his costume, or some other detail, it would help. As I write this I realize it's something Ive not done at all, then again, we're not apt to mix up Lisa and the baby. :0

You've done a great job settingup the complexity of the Paul and his mothers relationship. she might not want to be bothered, but she loves him and wants him to have the things he wants.


I can';t wait to read more!


Now, I'm afraid I've fallen behind! It's harvest time here. Honest. 25 baby chicks in the cellar, 3 pigs just went to the butcher, pints of tomatoes and quarts of dried tomatoes, freezin' green beans and drying dried beans. Whew! So...


Twilight Girl! Yea! You posted! The dialogue works, I like the changes. Guess you need to change did you hear No Doubt to somehow metioning that it's the name of the band, huh? :0 I totally didn't realize that the italics were denoting a memory! Thought it was just part of the conversation.

Quote:
“Yeahr, of course—“ he began.

“Shit, Neil! Did you take that and do something with it?” I didn’t like the shrill, screech my voice took on. I came across practically rabid. Attempting composure, I relaunched, “Did you? Did you take that and give it to someone? Oh, shit, Neil, of course you did! How else—“
"Is yeahr a typo? no comma between shrilll and screech.


Quote:
“Slow down, sister. I’ve never even given that poem another thought since you showed it to me. And, really, how would I get it? You keep everything you do buried in that fuckin’ shoebox,” heat creeped into cheeks. Next he would start in on his familiar rant about me not taking my writing to any next level, blah, blah. “Your arse is out the window on this one, darling,” he scolded.

“My what?” Scottish expressions. “I don’t know what that means, really, but I think you’re giving me shit.”
Do the Scots say "sister'? You left out 'my' in the 'heat ceeped into my cheeks'. I like your answer, even though it means disagreeing with Unagidon.:

Quote:
“So, what is this, then? Coincidence?” I was still trying to make sense of what I’d just heard. Those really were my words coming from someone else’s mouth. “Call up the other station for me Neil. Ask them to play it so I can hear it again.”

“Alright, but I’m calling from your place. You decent? You have coffee? I’ll be there in a minute and I’ve got potato scones. Me mum made some before she left yesterday and I’ll share them with you.” He hung up.
Call HTE other station? Where do they live that there are only 2 stations? I think she should be waaayyy more upset, freaking out! YK? soemthing about his answer just doesn't ring true. I'm not sure what, sorry.

Great start. I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes. Your ideas, CHapter 1, Chapter 1, and the general idea behind the book, are so different from the same old regualr thing. It's fun reading so much variety!

Dont' worry about how much you do! Just try to do something each week, work on it when you can squeeze in time. 1/2 an hour a week is better than nothing. eventually you get sucked in, the kids get older and you have soemthing incredible started!



Yeah for us!
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#19 of 24 Old 10-08-2006, 12:28 AM
 
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Hi all,
No time to do much of anything at the moment - dd has been sick for a couple of weeks. Do you think it would be possible to continue on a thread for a month or so? I keep on forgetting to subscribe! And then of course I don't post and don't read everyone else's posts....

I've scanned everyone's work, and it looks intriguing. I shall be back for more tomorrow!

Tricia, treehugger.gif wild.gif geek.gif mama of dd (6) 

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#20 of 24 Old 10-09-2006, 06:37 PM
 
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Thanks so much Red and Unagidon for the comments. I'm going to digest that a bit. I'm traveling for the month, and on a borrowed internet connex, so I'll might be a little out of touch for a bit.

Thanks again for the critiques, it is so incredibly helpful!!! I'm going to have coffee with the Scottish receptionist at my parents office and pick her brain a little on sayings and such.

Catch up with you soon!!

Judi
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#21 of 24 Old 10-26-2006, 02:02 AM
 
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I'm writing a novel (then again, who isn't!?) but I'm not sure it's any good...how much do you want to see of it? I have it on my website...maybe I'll just give you a link to it?
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#22 of 24 Old 10-26-2006, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Welcome!

Actually, not too many of us ARE writing novels. Just a few. New members are always welcome.

We have a few newer threads. You should post something on one of them. (try this one http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=539875 )

I think posting the first chapter 1st would have saved the rest of us some confusion. You can just cut and paste it to your post. You do lose the formatting, so you have to go back through (indents, italics, etc).

Posting your novel, all of it, on your web page isn't such a hot idea. when you go to have it published they'll want to know if it's ever been published before. Some contests, etc, won't take it if it's been up on-line. I don't think posting bits of it at a time with a writing group counts. THe only ones who would see would be your group (us) and not all of it at once.
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#23 of 24 Old 10-26-2006, 01:37 PM
 
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is anyone else gearing up for nanowrimo or am I alone this go-round?
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#24 of 24 Old 10-26-2006, 05:27 PM
 
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I'm signed up! My user name over there is judiro ... would love to have a mothering buddy there
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