Sofia, I think telling anyone they are a hack is hmmm, almost a cliched approach, so it cannot be done fairly. I think the key is to be honest but fair. Open with a positive (there usually is at least one somewhere) and then suggest areas that could be improved. I will admit to having more problems with criticizing poetry on the site than prose, so I stay away from a lot of it, although I have seen some good writing there too. My wife is currently getting very serious about writing, and highly recommends Stephen King's 'On Writing', nope, not a shlocky horror book, an actual memoir of his experiences as a writer, and what he has learned over the years. She said it totally kicked her ass back into high gear when she was getting very despondent about her craft.
WHAT DID HE SAY?
"Don't you think that its time you got rid of them penguins?" Alice asked for the tenth time.
"Ok! Ok!" Jeb groused, "I've had it with your nagging me about those stupid birds,"
Jeb's money making scheme to raise penguins on his ranch was a financial disaster as the Great Depression grew worse. It had been a good idea when he first heard there was going to be a great demand for penguins. He dipped into their savings and bought 100 to raise on their small ranch. Alice was angry from the very beginning because he hadn't discussed it with her first. She ended up having to do a lot of the work caring for the birds.
A few months later the penguin market dried up and Jeb had to find a way to get rid of them before he lost any more money. He actually was relieved by Alice's complaints about his money losing venture. Now he could blame her for having to get rid of the penguins and his friends wouldn't laugh at his bad business judgment.
Jeb tried, but failed to sell the penguins. Desperate, he herded them into his truck and started driving the 75 miles to the city where he would donate them to the city zoo. Along the way he became thirsty and stopped at a small café to get a cup of coffee and buy gas. As he parked the truck, he noticed a young man standing by his truck.
"Morning, how ya doing?"
"Morning, doing ok."
"You from around here?"
"Nope, jest passing through, lookin for work."
"Not much work round here."
"You got that right."
"Would ya like to make a few bucks?"
"My name's Jeb; what's yer's?"
"Sam," they shook hands. "What's the job?"
"Well, I was wondering if ya'd be willing to take them penguins to the city zoo if I gave ya five bucks?"
"That's all I gotta do?"
"It's a deal."
The two men shook hands on their contract. They herded the penguins into Sam's truck. Jeb handed Sam a fiver and gave him directions to the zoo.
Jeb was happy to have the penguins off his hands as he drove home to give Alice the good news.
The next day, Jeb had to drive to town to buy supplies. On the way he stopped at the same café. He was drinking his coffee when he looked out the window and saw Sam drive up with the 100 penguins still in his truck.
Jeb ran out to the parking lot, "Sam, what are ya doin here?"
Sam waved back. "I've been driving round lookin' all over fer ya."
"Why ya lookin fer me?
"I did just like ya tole me ta do."
"What in tarnation you doin back here with them. You was supposed to take em to the zoo!"
"I did take em to the zoo and they had a real good time. But I still got some of the $5 you give me so I'm gonna take em to a baseball game today."
Jeb stared at Sam in disbelief.
"If ya tell me where yer ranch is, I can bring them back tonight after the game."
Later that night, the sheriff stopped a young man for driving without headlights.
"What happened to yer lights?"
"A crazy old man busted em with his fists."
BBB--I got several smiles from the story. The longest sustained was from information that the penguin market had dried up.
"You are sorry, aren't you?"
"What about him?"
"He has nothing left. He can't go on."
"Tough ****. He took his chances just like us."
"Yah, but we're still here. We still have something."
"To tell you the truth, I rather enjoyed gutting him like a pig." "I took all he had and cast him aside." "I told him he should have covered his ass, he wouldn't listen."
"You are being too hard."
"No I'm not, Monopoly is a tough game." "He should have kept Boardwalk."
I'm halfway through reading your great stories and I have to run.
I've really enjoyed what I've read so far.
I'll try to get back later.
I really liked the slice-of-life take that many of these stories took on - complete little circles of thought.
Sofia's reminded me of one of those bonus chapters you often find at the end of a novel - chapters meant to seduce you into buying the author's next book.
"When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
It was just a flipping ad for a jerky car-safari, I can see that now. (Hindsight: **** it.)
Still, I became Pilgrim and it became Prayer; I'll leave the decision on Progress to you.
Because there's nothing else to do right now, I play word-association Scrabble:
COMMA - a pause or seperation. (How many points do I get for that extra, apt, M?)
MOCHA, CHARM, REACH, TEACH, TRENCH, TRANCE.
TRANCE! (I should get triple word score for that.)
What happened was this: I read the sentence and repeated it for a while, and then more than a while. (Like I said, it became Prayer.)
The more I repeated about it, the more I realized that I was bored. Not just bored. Bored! (Capital B. Exclaimation mark.)
It wasn't the first time I ever took a sleeping pill, not by a longshot, so I'm not sure if it counts as a "first time" even though I took a handfull this time.
Even though I chased it with Kahlua. (Kahlua. Jeez. What a pansy.)
I've been in the hospital before too so I doubt it counts as a "first time" either.
You'd think that now I'd really be bored but you'd be wrong. Rest without responsiblility can be pretty nice, really. Besides, it's true that you still hear all the stuff said around you so you get this really trippy Tom Sawyer funeral deal.
Maybe a pause or separation was what I needed all along. Maybe that's what the Prayer was all about.
Or maybe I just needed a car-safari.
We should revive Jespah's creative writing threads....
Let's give it a go then!
I'll post mine with one of the provided loaded statements after I worked it out
"You are sorry, aren't you?"
Sofia sniffed a bit, but was quite glad the rebuke part was over: "Yes daddy, I'm sorry, I won't do it anymore."
Just as she expected, he wanted more.
"What is it you will not do anymore?"
"I will not throw snowballs at elderly people when they are trying to ride their bicycles."
"Can you tell me why again?"
Another sob welled up in her throat. Her butt seemed to be on fire, her father has big, strong hands and is not afraid to use them. She struggled to keep the sobs down, and replied: "Be
because they can fall from their bikes and break stuff
Her father looked at her with a stern look in his eyes, but all of a sudden he grinned at her and playfully ruffled her hair: "You know something, little one? I'm glad you are my daughter, and not that prissy little vixen from the Blake's. She was the one who told on you, you know."
"Lisette? But she was the one who started it! Oh, that's so wrong! I'm gonna get that little bitch tomorrow!"
Her father laughed: "Mind the language, young lady! I can't believe that is the same mouth that sang those sweet songs in the choir yesterday in church!"
"Sorry daddy. It's just
"I know, little one. That's why I'm glad you are my girl. You wouldn't lie about these things."
Sofia felt a stab of guilt when she realized her father's trust wasn't really warranted. After all, she had not meant for him to find out. Should she tell him? As usual, her conscience smothered any objections she could muster, and the words rolled unbidden from her lips: "I
I wasn't going to tell you daddy. I'm sorry, but it's the truth! Please don't punish me again! I won't do it again! Except to Lisette. I'm so sorry, daddy!"
When Sofia realized she was babbling, she forced herself to stop. Still, she could not keep the trepidation out of her eyes when she looked up at his face. Would he be mad?
His hands ruffled her hair again, gentler this time: "That was very honest of you, little one. Not many people would admit something like that! No, no, don't worry, I understand perfectly why you didn't want to tell me."
Then, surprisingly enough, he squatted down and hugged her.
With his face conveniently close to her left ear, he whispered: "It's been a while, but I was your age once as well, you know. And I too did stuff that I never wanted to tell my parents. But they found out anyways. And became twice as angry when they knew I had kept the truth from them! You remember grandmom, right?"
Sofia remembered the baked applepie, and her kind face. She also remembered those strong arms chopping wood in the shed.
"She was really strong!"
"Yes, she was. More so then my father, who was a skinny little man. I think I was the only kid in school who was spanked by his mother!"
Sofia imagined her big father laying over grandma's lap, and giggled.
"The other kids must have teased you a lot!"
He grinned at her and replied impishly: "They didn't dare
If my mother found out, she was just as likely to spank them!"
They laughed together, and Sofia fiercely hugged her father back. He was the best dad ever!
Thanks for waking this topic back up! Lovely story, naj.
In my opinion anything which shows parents is a rosy sentimental glow is a piece of you know what.
The whole point of creative writing, it seems to me, is to challenge received wisdom not confirm it.
Of course, there are other forms of writing besides creative writing. There's confessional writing and biography and hagiography,description, portrayal, word painting, travelogue, allegory and many more.
But creative writing comes from the dark spaces behind the sun where new worlds are being formed. It's Rembrandt, Picasso or Warhol rather than pictures on greeting cards.
It's a tough business. It does not reassure.
Well, most other parent-chiled relation stuff is more then adequately dealt with by Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil. So how creative is that?
Perhaps I could write about Xof'ia, the three tentacled infant from a Rembrand impersonator living in the Andromeda cluster?
"You are sorry, aren't you? You must be. 5000 years of evolving humanity, and look at where we stand now. This is it, you know. No holds barred. I stand here, and address the nation, the world. Psychologists everywhere will explain to their audiences I snapped. Perhaps they are even trying to find assassins to stop me. It is no longer of any consequence to me.
You know me. From the tip of my hair to the nails on my toes. You have intimate knowledge of all that is in me. This I do not believe, I know! I stand here, ready. You know I am not bluffing, God. I've made up my mind.
And this is the best part. All the world will know. Since all are listening to me. They ought to, considering at what is at stake here. Their very own lives are on the line.
The very essence of your creation. And I am wondering, will you act? Will you finally reemerge and show the world that you exist? Century upon century of fruitless debate, of religious hate, and strife. A struggle between science and religion still goes on, both forces equally titanic, equally unyielding. And all of it only because you choose to remain on the spiritual background. You have no need to stand in the spotlights. Let each chose for his own, and be saved... Or condemned.
I am tired of it, God. I am weary of this lackluster behavior of yours. So many people doubting, struggling with their beliefs, their dreams, their hopes. They keep asking what I already know to be the truth. They wonder whether you exist. But you have to, I know. How else can the world still exist with the coming of the atomic bomb? For more then half a century we have walked on a razorsharp edge, total annihilation was waiting the moment we slipped and fell from this precarious foothold.
And it is not in our blood to keep standing there, right? Humans are shallow, and sublimely egotistical. They care about themselves, not others. So how come we can work together? This seems implausible enough to me, but the last 60 years have shown more then anything else the truly impossible. Any nutcase could have began global destruction. But no one did. Self preservation is not an issue. Perhaps life as we know may be obliterated, but those pushing the buttons will be safe. Safe in our bunkers under the ground. So why has it not happened yet?
Actually, it is happening now. I hold my hand over the big red button. The really ironic thing is, I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing it to take away doubt.
Show yourself, God! Step in the spotlight! Take your rightful place as ruler of this world! Whyever not? Think of all the benefits should you openly take charge! No more religious strife, not more bigotry. No more fruitless debates whether you exist or not. You could bring peace to a world in desperate need of some.
And all you have to do is your duty. Just stop me from blowing your creation apart. You know you have to! For years we have pleaded and begged and prayed for you to step up and take charge. Well, no more I say! No more begging! Show yourself! I summon you with one single action! Come!"
Millions of people watched as the hand pressed down on the button. Hundreds of missiles roared into action, eager to finally do the job they were built for. Two missiles failed to start, but the others worked fine.
And the world watched as several cameras followed the doomsday weapons. All knew the end of the world as they knew it had come, and they reacted correspondingly. Some wept, some fled. Many searched for cover. Even more people prayed. But all waited, since they had no choice.
And then, at long last they saw.
The end of the world... As they knew it.
Soemthing different then, starting with the same words as my previous story.
Horrible storytelling of course, a rambling monologue. but it's different... Creatuve, especially for me