The writing industry has a plethora of conferences, workshops and mentors, all promising answers and connections to help build your writing career. Of course, all of this comes at a price – conferences from $400 to $3000, mentors at around $150 an hour – which wouldn’t be a problem if so many of those offering advice weren’t flim-flam carpetbaggers. I offer excerpts from one such guru on my bad side:
I fear that for the beginning of a novel, the (pages) don’t grab me, fascinate me, make me love the character enough to keep reading.
(Forgetting this mentor’s redundancy, she also completely misses the shooting that takes place on Page 3.)
She goes on: There’s a lot of “fucking” and too many exclamation points and then semi-colons.
(There are three of each over the first ten pages.)
My “comps” – comparative stories used as short-hand to help editors understand themes of a book quickly – are decried: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (is) about a woman mourning her mother’s death. I’m not getting the connections here.
(A principle theme of my bad side is coping with being an orphan.)
The conclusion of my $150 analysis was this: Do you want to try a personal essay? That’s the first assignment I give my students that they publish most often.
It stared back, mute and dense, the black eyes, unknowing. Seeing it, so dull, so obviously a mutation of a mutation with ridiculous purpose, its bloated sense of self, misguided as to think – think? – it had significance, like it actually had ideas that meant something. I looked across it, at the passing light and the shadows coming up, and tried not to think.I swung out before either of us knew it, and smacked the glass hard, indenting the top half, cracking it down the center. It was a good hit. Solid. It looked like a whale breaching, half out of the water, turning away, the stratification of its underbelly completely out, coming together at the top edge. My face was on one side of that now, the same, just warped at the edge by the balene indentation It didn’t reflect. The sides of the glass pushed out, the wood behind. My hand was bleeding.
Although it’s highly unlikely that whatever is out there will be much like us, the truth is it’s all that we know. To imagine what might be out there, we need to break through to this reflection.Only then can we start to picture what might be on the other side.