As much as my stomach hurt last night, as much as I wanted to bolt and not attend class and run for the hills while flipping off my workshop, deep down I knew the story was good. I didn't turn in something unpolished. It's a piece I have slaved over and cried over and rewritten a crillion times. In truth, I didn't believe it would be murdered. I felt my most trusted and intelligent readers, Honduro and Mandy, had read the story and had given me excellent feedback and that the worst was over.
WRONG. I was sliz-aughtered last night. It was embarrassingly brutal.
There is a man in my workshop that I call Mr. Salvation. I call him that because he insists that each story have stark Conflict, Theme and hell yes, Salvation! "Where's the salvation in this story?" If he doesn't say this during every crit, then he's not at the crit. He started the evening off last night with, "In 20 pages, nothing happened . . ." and it went from there. It never strayed far from the negatives, just stayed in the deep grove of tear-down comfort. I hunched lower and lower with every What Was the Lesson Learned? What Does This Mean?
There were three champions for the story. Honduro, who is really the most thoughtful of critics in that if he hears a compelling enough point or if he rereads a passage that changes his view a bit, he will articulate this brilliantly. He is true to a Story not to an initial hard on about a particular point. And though he reiterated concerns, he was generous with what he thought was good. The workshop leader/teacher, Lisa, who in some ways has been my biggest writing cheerleader of the last seven years, did the same. She nailed most points and themes and expressed similar concerns as Honduro. A gregarious Hungarian woman named Claudia passionately argued for the story. At certain times, it became heated between Mr. Salvation and Claudia. I wanted her to tackle Mr. Salvation off his soap box; a flying side kick would've been cool too. But he talks way more than her. She was frustrated by him.
The story is ambitious and it's told as an allegory though most workshoppers got on This Is a Parable wagon quickly, and thus demanded a glaring lesson in the end. The very subtle restoration of faith I tried to achieve in the end was purposeful. And lost on the Clear Cut Parable Wanters. I didn't fulfill the expectations of what they really wanted this story to be.
I have thought about the workshop for the last 10 hours, nearly nonstop. I am trying to sort out my defensiveness vs. the truly constructive suggestions. I am. I swear. But here are some suggestions/comments from the workshoppers I have to sift through:
Good point of view. Change the point of view to the father. To the mother. This story is powerful. I felt nothing in the end. Why are they named that? A lot is at risk here. Nothing happens in this story. More conflict. A mother wouldn't do that. Why does the baby just grow and grow? What city do they live in? The birth scene is my favorite. The birth scene has nothing to do with the story for being so long. Why would God grant a wish and then punish them like that; God wouldn't do that (this person clearly knows the intentions of God, not my fictional God, but GOD, God, and I bow down to her for that). This piece is really polished. This piece is an early draft and with a lot of hard work might become something. (Thanks Mr. Salvation)
It goes on and on. Things were stated and then contradicted immediately by another reader. It was indecipherable until I just threw away most all of the comments and kept the most constructive and thoughtful.
Today I feel calmer even if my stomach still hurts. I realized if I'm going to be a good writer, I just gotta stay brave. I gotta write about Godzilla babies, and I gotta stick to my Gut. I'm sure all my favorite writers had to, at some point, make the decision to reject the general consensus of their work and fly solely on instincts. My story will be rewritten again, and probably more times after that, but the slaughter of Poor Carmenita made me believe in her more.