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.

 

Review Power

BUFA-Time-for-Review.jpgOne writer wrote recently that they’d received some really nice reviews, but one reader sent an email blasting him for some part of his novel. He took this to heart and let it destroy his mood and his confidence in his writing.

One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch of readers.

The cold, hard fact is – writers need reviews. But I’m not sold that a bad one is actually a bad thing to have. It shows that people, other than family, friends, and hardcore fans have taken the chance. Critical readers will look at the review closely to see what the person took issue with. Reviews that just say, “terrible,” just like reviews that say, “it was great,” doesn’t tell the readers anything and they’re likely to overlook these. If the reviewer said something more specific, “weak characters,” yet others have said the opposite, they’re likely to judge for themselves.

There’s another cold, hard fact – most readers don’t leave reviews. I know I’ve sold far index.jpgmore books than the few reviews that I have. It’s not write, or even ethical, to pay for reviews, although such services exist.

So – readers – review the novel, book, ebook, story, etc in an honest and fair way. If you didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t terrible, be gentle in your criticism. The writers behind these books are human and did put a lot of work into them.

Writers – don’t get upset by a bad review. Not everyone is going to like your work. That’s the value of diversity in our society. Everyone has different tastes. Focus on the good reviews, but do read the not so favorable ones.

Food Crimes: Mesquite Choco-choco-choco cookies.

Where have I been? A tad busy: End of semester biz, daughter about ready to burst with baby, and baking.

I wandered accidentally, whilst grading on the couch listening to background noise on the tele, into baking and cooking shows. They have reawakened my passion for dessert chemistry.

I’ve posted pictures of these cookies on my instagram and facebook and the original recipe ideas link on my pinterest page. These recipes are not mine – but I always do some this and that to make it my own and have been asked to share.

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These are Mesquite Chocolate Chip cookies (on my favorite Roscher porcelain).

Although they don’t seem very holiday-like, they are delicious. Softer in ways than a regular chocolate chip.

Here’s the original recipe from David Lebovitz

I wanted to halve the recipe; the original recipe makes 50 cookies. I didn’t need that many. I wanted to sample before I committed.

 

Here are the changes I made.

1 cup of flourbaking.png

3/4 cup of Mesquite flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup of butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup of oats

1 fully generous overflowing, maybe more cup or so of chocolate chips. I used semi-sweet and bittersweet. (My faves!)

 

Then I followed his directions, including the pat down which I originally thought of as strange – but they do get puffy. heaven

Of course, we ate them right out of the oven –

HEAVEN.

Some of the middles were stuffed with chocolate; this was definitely the winner. If/when I make them again, I may try to purposefully load the center.

We had more when they cooled, then more later, then more the next day. Fortunately, I have willing taste testers who will try them at all stages.

The mesquite flour makes them light and airy. (I intend to bread some chicken with it and see what that gets me).

The cookies were delish! I wonder what other types of cookies this flour would compliment?

I’m going to try to post a recipe a day for the next few weeks – if you’re interested, like, follow, favor. 🙂

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Food Crimes: Gifting Times Two – Ethnic Recipes from my Friends.

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Some years ago, John Voso Jr. put together a cookbook, Italian Recipes from my friends; the proceeds from which went to the Richie White Fund. Richie White was a young boy who spent most of his young life in the hospital battling cancer. He lost that battle a few days after his fourth birthday.

 

 

 

This year, John has put together Ethnic Recipes From My Friends. The proceeds benefit a number of good charities.

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The book contains JackFruit tacos. You’ll remember that some months ago, I tried JackFruit tacos at a vegan restaurant and loved them.

 

 

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When John Voso, his wife, Debbie, and myself met for dinner, I was surprised to find this recipe in the book! I, personally, can not wait to make them myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book contains recipes from a number of different people and cultures:

Angel Wings from Poland, 45249898_10215606113699519_8495535016174944256_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonoran Style Carne Asada, 44957040_10215568156710618_4786004417256095744_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

42876531_10215381572126120_7345769895918829568_nand don’t forget about dessert, A Nut Kuchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethnic Recipes from My Friends will make a great gift and it supports great causes. Contact John Voso to order your copy!

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Food Crimes: Something’s amiss at the Farmers’ Market

Farmers-marketI both love and hate the Farmers’ Markets.

I like the samples or, at least, I used to. Some time ago, I witnessed a man reach his fleshy hand in a bowl, dig out some cut up apricots with his fingers, and put the chunks of fruit in his mouth along with his fingers. Then he reached his slobbery hand into another bowl for the pluots.

Disgusting! I no longer partake of the cut up sample bowls.

THERE ARE TOOTHPICKS OFFERED FOR A REASON!

I saw one woman holding her dog while she squeezed peaches. She readjusted the dog, farmermputting her hands under his belly, then turned him over like a baby in her arms, and reached down to handle more peaches.

Kids regularly reach their little hands up onto tables, into bins, fingers in the sample bowls.

But, in all honesty, I have not been turned off from farmers’ markets – until possibly this weekend.

I picked up a lovely, healthy looking bunch of kale and put it in my sack. When I got home, I started to put it away and got a whiff of it. It stunk. It smelled like a dirty sponge. I washed it and let it dry. I tried again – mildewed sponge smell stuck to it. I washed it again and laid it to dry. This time the aroma of old bleach wafted from it’s thick leaves.

farmersmktUnwilling to take a chance and eat something that might make me sick (that’s what happen last week after my farmer’s market visit, I got sick. I didn’t then chalk it up to my farmers’ market finds, but now I’m wondering), I tossed it.

I’m not bothered by the loss of my few dollars, but more feeling betrayed by the farmer who tried to pass this off as fresh. I’m not sure what happened to turn the lovely kale into a dirty dishpan scented germ haven, but I do have the feeling the person on the other side of those leafy greens knew what he was selling.

It occurred to me that the farmers’ market is much like a buffet in a restaurant, minus the sneeze-guard. Yes, we’re going to be responsible and wash the food before we eat it, but is that going to be enough?

Beyond the numerous hands touching the produce, the unclean fingers lingering on the individual items, what about those – like I witnessed this weekend – who cough and actually sneeze near the food?

There’s no one checking on these open air food markets.farmermk

I’m certain many of the farmers are proud of their produce and wouldn’t allow infested products to line their tables; however, how many can afford to lose money by tossing away bins of forgotten water-logged or other problematic food?

I’m unclear how these farmers and their sales people can keep people from coughing, sneezing, molesting their fruits and veggies – I mean we are, in some sense, avoiding the supermarket system and trying to buy local – but how do we do this safely?

I imagine I could go back and talk to the guy who sold me that wretched kale, but what would that do? I have every faith he’d offer me a refund or replacement. But that’s not what I want. I want to feel this food is of a higher and safer quality than what I buy in the grocery store. I want to support the local farmers.

But I don’t want to get a staph infection from an avocado skin or the flu from a persimmon nor do I want to pick fleas off my peaches.

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Food Crimes: Is Death by Chocolate Real?

20181028_133526[1]I was inspired the other night while watching netflix; a character mentioned Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. I put the show on pause and sought recipes.

I found the usual 2 cups of flower, 1 cup of sugar run-of-the-mill types of recipes; then I happened upon something exciting!

I have a habit of looking up a ton of recipes, then mixing and matching and making my own. It seems the author of this blog does something similar, researches others and then works in her own special touches.

This recipe uses only 6 tablespoons of flour. More room for the good stuff!20181028_133637[1]

I used a little more than 1/3 a cup of baker’s chocolate and I replaced the bittersweet. Although I’m a fan of bittersweet, I decided to use semi-sweet in its place. This makes my cookies a little sweeter than the original recipe. If you like it more sweet and want to risk a trip to chocolate heaven, I suggest mine. If you are 20181028_133641[1]a less-sweet chocolate lover with a desire to live a long healthy life, try it as recommended on the blog.

I tried unsuccessfully a few weeks ago to use a double boiler method to melt chocolate, so I was hesitant to try again.  However, I followed the instruction in the blog and used a bowl in a pan. It worked great.

I melted a cup of semi-sweet with the butter and baker’s chocolate, cooled it, then added the recommended amount of semi-sweet chips to the batter as suggested.

I also used regular chili powder and omitted the cayenne. The chili pepper doesn’t make it spicy; it just brings out the other flavors. I’d be willing to try it with cayenne and/or a little spicier – so if anyone does, let me know how it turns out!

Everything looked gorgeous and tasted so good, I had to share.

This recipe was to die for as announced by my taste-testing kids.

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Food Crimes: Don’t be Fake(d)

artifical1I tried a new drink; the front label boasted a vitamin drink. I didn’t take the time to read the ingredients. I was thirsting, it was cool and promised refreshing goodness. But, after drinking half the bottle, my stomach began to ache. I put it aside.

Later, when my daughter dropped by, I offered her the rest. (She’s worked in nutrition based stores since she was old enough to get a job – her major is public health). She said, did you read the ingredients?

I hadn’t. The front label had me convinced I was consuming a healthy beverage, but the ingredients listed three different types of fake sweeteners. I’m usually much better about reading labels, but sometimes we all forget and fall for the advertisement.

I’m not one who usually consumes anything with fake sweetener.

I’m a believer that our bodies are made to process what was put on this earth, not that which was created in a lab to fool our taste buds.

artificalPreviously, some of these artificial sweeteners had been linked to cancerous tumors in rats.

A new study shows that artificial sweeteners are toxic to our gut bacteria. Scientists are finding in more and more studies how important our guts are to our overall physical  and mental health.

I know someone, looking for an answer to their problems with anxiety, who was diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome. The doctor told her that it was the cause of many of her mental health problems as well as other physical problems she was experiencing. If a product is toxic to our stomachs, imagine what it can do if it gets into our blood and neurological systems.

Don’t be fake(d). Read the labels. Avoid lab food when natural alternatives are available.  Even then, use in moderation.

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