Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I am a blogger for the writing website, If you feel compelled to read my thoughts on the struggles and joys of writing, my posts are published every Friday.

As a blogger, I get a free premium membership to the site. I have yet to figure out what this means, exactly, but I figured I’d better take advantage of it. I made up a lovely pen name, critiqued some people’s stuff, and garnered enough points to post a short story of my own that other writers could critique.

I waited with baited breath to see what people might say.

The story received mixed reviews. I was surprised that I didn’t take any of the criticism personally. There was no throwing of myself on the floor while moaning that I’m a worthless nobody, which relieved Caleb. (I’m kidding, I’m kidding. This has NEVER happened. Don’t call social services. Not yet, anyway.) I was, however, a little miffed that people didn’t get my subtle brand of humor.

In a nutshell, the story (which was written a couple of years ago) is about a girl trying to come to terms with the existence or non-existence of God. Deep deep stuff. It’s relatively short, only 1300 words, and is divided into five sections: Hannah’s (Hannah is my poor, confused protagonist) childhood, Hannah’s teenage years, Hannah’s college years, and Hannah’s early motherhood years. In the last section, Hannah’s husband bites the dust in a heroic fashion.

It’s a comedy.

Sort of.

Here’s an excerpt from “the college years” section.

Jason and his roommate, Seth, engaged in impassioned theological arguments and discussed people like Kierkegaard, Luther, and the Christian Platonists of Alexandria. Hannah knit them scarves as she sat, cross-legged, on Jason’s bed, and listened with acute interest, absorbing information and later writing what she learned down in a black and white composition notebook she kept under her pillow in her dorm room.

“That’s SUCH BULL*&%*!” Jason would often exclaim. Jason’s impassioned exclamations always piqued Hannah’s interest. He was the first Christian she had met who unapologetically swore in a loud and brazen fashion.

One afternoon, she asked her suite-mates what they thought about God.

“God is, like, within all of us,” said Stacy.

“I’ll tell you one thing. God doesn’t want us to kill babies,” said Shana.

“God is dead,” said Sam.

“Didn’t John Lennon say that?” asked Stacy.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Sam.

My critics’ major beef was with the conversation between Hannah and her suitemates. A UK critic was sure I meant flat-mates. A couple of critics informed me that John Lennon said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, not that God is dead. A third critic noted, with disapproval, that all of the suitemates’ names started with S.

This all amused me. I purposely had Sam wrongly attribute Nietzsche’s quote to Lennon. I also purposely gave the girls S-names- I thought it added to the humorous flow of the conversation, because the suitemates were obviously dingbats.

I was told the story needed to be longer. I was told I lacked focus. I was told the story was well thought-out. They found a lot of typos. That was embarrassing.

It was an interesting experience. Throwing your writing out there and asking for honest feedback is like begging for a piece of humble pie.

I often say to John:

“John! Nobody gets me!”

“Well, you’re very mysterious,” is his reply.

“Yes. Yes. Mystery is my passion,” I say, mysteriously. That is why I used a pen name when I posted my story. And it is why I will use a pen name when I rip apart other people’s writing on the site, as well.

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." -H.G. Wells


Toaster said...

I like the excerpt--and at Geneseo, it's definitely suite-mates. ;)

Cara said...

Holly, don't get discouraged based on what other people say about your writing! In college at Fredonia, nobody got my writing. I was tired of working my butt off and having people not see my purpose so...for one poetry assignment I just wrote garbage down on my paper and everyone loved it. I got your humor before you explanation! And I love your blog. It is hilarious!

Anonymous said...

I think the toughest thing about having someone else read my work is that I already doubt myself. What if they see the errors I think are there, but have tried to fix or cover up? It's definitely a piece of humble pie.

Kass said...

Ah, as I look to get my novel published, I can relate.

Julia said...

I recently read a post on a writer's blog where she received the first copy of her novel (and she's had several published) only to read the first few pages, find several things she would have phrased differently and threw it on the shelf in frustration. So I sense this inner critic we have will never leave.

Shana said...

I will admit I only HALF took it personally that you used my name and the word "dingbat" in the same blog post :)

Holly said...

Ack! I will change it right away! "How's... Sandi?"