Author Attacked by Ape!

I recently visited Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a UK territory attached to the south of Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is home to the Barbary Macaque Apes.

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I’m a person who likes a challenge; I crossed the highest, longest suspension bridge in North America, I swam with sharks. But, moreso, I like to explore; I saw a grisly bear in the Yukon, held a Koala in Australia, traversed the catacombs in Paris, etc.

So, I was there on the Rock of Gibraltar to get a peek at both Spain on one side and Africa on the other all the while standing in Europe. Pretty freaking cool.

The apes, which look more like monkeys (and are referred to as such), wander free there. They hang out on the patio of the visitor’s center, play in the trees and bushes, and hang out on the roads.

I did get close enough to one to have a photo. But I know better than to attempt to feed a wild animal. I did see four young women getting their picture taken by a park ranger while they fed one of the adult Macaque’s not far from the “Do Not Feed” sign.

From the visitors’ center, you can hike to other views, other places on the Rock and even all the way down. There’s another shop on the Rock where you can see a cave and buy trinkets, which is what I did. When I travel, I like to buy holiday ornaments for my tree as a remembrance.

I have the Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, a Santa Star Fish from Hawaii, and even a Santa Chili Pepper from New Mexico to name a few.

I hiked back up to the center to grab some water and lunch before taking the cable car back down to the city. ape.png

I’d been warned not to take a big back pack or food with me. The monkeys, they said, will jump on you. I heeded these warnings, had only a small pack/purse and no food.

But approaching the visitors’ center, one of the juveniles (juvenile delinquent!) jumped on my back. I raised my hands in surprise and she bit me. She then opened my bag, took the ornament, and hopped off. (This is the picture of the monkey as it tried to eat my ornament! Thank you, Geoff)

I’m okay. Maybe “attacked” is a strong word, perhaps assaulted is better?  She left a dental impression and some scrapes on my hand. Yes, a little blood, swelling, bruising. My doctor is a little vexed with me.

But what does this have to do with writing?

We must challenge ourselves, we must overcome, we must use incidents such as these as inspiration or fodder. I feel all of these adventures make me who I am and my writing what it has become over the years.

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I’m not suggesting you put yourself in harm’s way! I am suggesting that once in awhile get out and face your fears, do something new, experiment, explore, learn something new – this will create fresh shifts in your writing (and in yourself)!

The whole incident has me thinking of a half a dozen stories!

Who Is Noreen Lace?

I received an email which read:

I’ve finished Eddy and I downloaded and read The Gold Tooth. Who is Noreen Lace?

The sender later elaborated – These are two very different styles. I found this surprising as most of the authors I read are a single style in each piece of writing.

eddyfinalredonefromtresized                     the gold tooth

I’ve thought about this before – I feel it’s good to be able to change. To me, it shows growth. However, some disagree. Some people feel you must stick to your style because your readers have expectations and may disappointed.

For me – I want to be able to grow, change, and do what feels natural – just to write what comes out and not to force it to be what someone else wants it to be.

Stories are organic. They grow from the characters, the setting, and the force of its own motion; therefore, the writing itself must be organic which may grow into a different style.

If you know me – you’ll see the stories are still part of my personality and therefore personal style: dark, dry, ironic.

What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

What’s So Scary?

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“Don’t be afraid of failure.  The reality is that most people successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures.”

From a new documentary on Netflix titled Creativity. The narrator is talking to the creator of Game of Thrones. The creator is talking about how many times he’s failed.

I started this to say – what are you afraid of?

Then I wanted to ask – what if there was no such thing as fear? What would you do? What could you do?

I want you to think about that. What if fear was not in the human range of emotion or thought?

 

Read Like a Wordsmith

wordDon’t read other words like a critic looking for the good, bad, and ugly. Read to discover what the author did well and how they did it.

This is reading like a writer, like a wordsmith.

Atwood says she will only review something if she likes it. She is not a critic and won’t write a bad review.

One of my friends told me he won’t even write a bad yelp review. He says, I praise those who deserve it, but it’s not my place to criticize.

I thought this was a great idea.

If you feel you must say something to alert other readers, then be honest and specific, but do add at least one good thing about the book, story, movie, service etc.

 

Critique Partners

critiqueisnotscary.jpgThere’s nothing more helpful than having someone read your work and give you the fresh perspective needed to improve.

Recently, my writing partner found a tiny mistake, despite having others read it, reading it aloud, and checking, rechecking, and re-editing it a thousand times. So helpful! I would have been embarrassed had it gone out with that small spelling errors that even spellcheck didn’t catch.

HOWEVER, there’s one thing that’s troublesome about critique groups or partners. The one who does not actually want the advice. I’ve worked with people who, every time I commented on their work, responded by explaining what they’d planned, meant, thought they wrote. They felt they accomplished what they wanted to do and didn’t plan on changing a thing. In other words, they’re weren’t listening. Why they even brought the story to the group, I have no idea. Perhaps they thought the story would be endlessly praised.

Ladies and gentlemen, some praise is necessary and warranted. You may have heard the sandwich method of response. First, say something positive about the work. Next, suggest and improvement. Finally, end with a positive.

In my classes, I actually students to say at least three positive things about any piece of work before we launch into the “room for improvement.”

Showing others their work is exceptionally hard for some people.And there are always good things to be said about any attempt.

But a good critique is learning to be open to hearing what is being said. Respond not with denial and deflection, but consideration of the comments received.

When I’m reading or editing, I ask the writer’s purpose and hopes for the piece. This helps me focus the response a little better. I also discuss the critique so I can be more specific with their desired outcome. Therefore, I do try hard to take into consideration the writer’s ideas.

After the last group with the writer who spent the whole time denying and explaining rather than listening, I avoided responding to that writer. A good critique is work. Not listing to other’s ideas will not win you friends and improve your work.

 

Writer Wednesday: Critique Partners – a little bit of heaven!

Some years ago, I belonged to a critique group. critique-3-300x225Of the four writers, none had been published and I became the only one who expressed specific goals. In one session, a women writer spent the whole time helping another writer without responding to the rest of us. It sometimes happened, so we weren’t offended; but the following week, the same woman spent two minutes on mine and said something to the effect, “I don’t even know what to tell you with this…” before moving to another person. I realized I was wasting my time there.

Years after that, at a meeting, I sat next to a colleague I barely knew. She mentioned she was a writer, and we soon struck up a friendship and critique partnership.

critiqueWe’d meet once a week or once every other week to read and review each other’s work. Timing and responses began bumpy but smoothed out rather quickly. We were near the same writing level, although I give her credit for being better than I. As we got to know one another, we understood what the other was attempting to accomplish in their own fiction. This helped us read one another’s work more productively.

The most important elements in a critique partnership is respecting the other, giving honest opinions without being brutal, and accepting criticism. As professionals, we didn’t experience issues in offering or receiving the feedback. At some points, we may have disagreed, but we didn’t let it interrupt what had (and has) become a successful venture.

My writing has vastly improved because of this partnership. I benefited from the critique1authentic and detailed critiques with increased confidence, which lead me to more submissions, and ultimately more publications.

 

How you might form a successful alliance:

  • A mutual understanding of writing goals and aesthetics.
  • Similar level of writing experience (or someone who has more than you. You want to grow from this experience and you’ll have a chance to give back.)
  • Trust & honesty – go hand in hand.
  • Time and availability to meet or exchange work.
  • Although it may help if you write in the same genre, it’s not required.

 

For those of you who have partners or experiences, did I miss anything?

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