Honest Critiques

No, I mean it. REAL honest. Email your excerpts or full stories, up to 1000 words or so, to honestcrits [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk. Synopses would also be welcome. My backlog is so daunting now that I recommend not submitting anything you are not prepared to wait a couple of months for a response on.
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  • Monday, October 03, 2005

    It Takes Turning 50

    Lydia says: "I am enclosing a short essay that I wrote, which I am thinking will expand to a book."

    It goes a little something like this:

    It takes turning 50, to start wearing ponytails for the first time in your life, and finding that they actually look good on you! To look in the mirror and see a woman who you actually like, and can be proud of. To (finally!) know what you want to be when you grow up, and to realize that you are already there. To know that you are doing the best you can every day, and not be afraid of what you can't do.

    It takes turning 50, to look around and realize that you have so many blessings -- regardless of the horrors you had to go through to get them.

    It takes turning 50 to find yourself, and others. To love your sons, but let them go. To know that you have raised two fine young men - they still need you, but in different ways... and that it is ok!

    It takes turning 50 to "find" yourself -- and to realize that you were never lost in the first place. You were just traveling the road before you, at the best speed you could manage each day. You might have deserved a speeding ticket or three, but life is like that.

    It goes on like this. My feeling is that this isn't an essay. An essay, and to a lesser extent a story, has to have an argument; this is a collection of aphorisms, or rather a collection of variations on the same aphorism. We don't find out, for example, why any of this takes turning 50, or what (if anything) these situations have in common.

    Once that's in place, it's possible to make a book out of it. As it is, it is a mass of inspiring anecdotes with no obvious Big Idea to connect them, and that seems to me to be the wrong way round. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is a singularly witless bit of writing, yes, but it summarizes the whole with the simple, intuitive title, a really good sense of the message of the book. It sold umpteen million copies.

    I can't see exactly what the book would be or who might publish it; perhaps this isn't an idea for a book.
    Torgo, 6:34 pm


    If it develops into a book, Transita might be interested.
    Blogger Bernita, at 8:09 pm  
    I don't know Torgo....well, I get from your comments on the Torgo picture, that it's not a picture of you, but you are definately a MAN.....The reasoning in the essay is a real good start for a woman's book....Don't worry Lydia....Men really are from Mars and women are from any real planet in the universe!!! (Sorry Torgo!!Luv ya' anyhow)
    Blogger Bonnie Calhoun, at 12:53 am  
    Well, I just can't see the reasoning there, is what it is. It's a series of statements rather than an argument.
    Blogger Torgo, at 1:05 am  
    Lydia, get some guts in here and maybe you'll have a premise. How can you be different than every other 50-yr-old woman with run of the mill, overdone, statements? Think about why anyone would read the book. Find a hook. Don't be so nice. Go for the jugular. And then think format--who actually will buy this and how will it present? Go deeper.

    Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:32 am  
    It's not a good start for any book I would read, that's for sure. It reads like one of those rather pointless 'inspirational' emails that someone in finance sends you on a Friday afternoon: 'Why Kids Are Precious', 'Why Women are Smarter than Men', 'Why Dogs are a Man's Best Friend'. The ideas expressed are obviously deeply personal, but it's for that very reason that they mean nothing to anyone but the writer. There's nothing here to hook me. Show, don't tell!
    Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:27 pm  

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