Friday, October 14, 2005

Poor Carmenita

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.

16 comments:

kiki said...

i'm sorry they tore your story apart. for what it's worth i really enjoy your writing. i agree, to be a good writer you have to stay brave and stick with your gut. all great writers have.

Anonymous said...

It takes courage and determination to continually pursue our goals.

I admire your strength and know that from this sliz-aughter will come some awesome growth for both you and poor Carmenita.

I am with Claudia on this one!
Mr Salvation Man is a complete moron. One perspective and that's it? How sad.

*aimee* said...

I keep wondering if I should continue stalking your blog secretly or leave evidence of my presence; the wonder I have for the way you write and deep sense of caring that I feel for the characters (real or fictitious) that you create. Anyway, when I read your blog yesterday I thought, ‘oh my god, this lady is my latest ‘writing idol’ and she’s written a story!?!’ I am sorry that your story wasn’t received the way you might have hoped. I pictured myself in a similar situation, trying to hold on to my smile while inside I felt raw from the criticism. Anyway, I don’t really know you, but you seem like the type to bounce back even better than before. Good luck rewriting your story. By the way, I’m not really a stalker. No worries. :o)

madness rivera said...

Aimee, for the love of God, leave evidence! 'cause your words are sweet and kind and I appreciate them as I lick my wounds. (You too Kiki and "Anonymous") P.S. Aimee,I love all your Tuesday entries. You're so studious! And you photograph fantastically.

Ibarionex R. Perello said...

While the reactions of some to your story were far from encouraging, it doesn't reflect your natural talent as a writer. As I've said to you before, your talent and skill as a writer are obvious. The fact that you are struggling with the a story, while frustrating, maddening and fucking depressing, is unfortunately part of the process. God knows that I continue to feel the same way with this novel that won't go away until I finish writing it. (They're stubborn that way). The fact that I wish I had never thought of the idea or even written a single sentence, doesn't reflect my ability or my desire to be a writer. Neither should it with you.

P.S. Mr. Salvation is going to burn in hell.

la vie en rose said...

Oh no...well, curses on Mr. Salvation and once again, you have bigger balls than I do.

madness rivera said...

Mr. Salvation burning in hell? Ironic justice!

Anonymous said...

Danette, Mr. Salvation was a total jerk here. It's obvious he really didn't care about his mode of DELIVERY, nor did he give a rip about caring enough to truly help. What a total loser. I’d like to kick his ass in a dark-alley-way. He'll definitely fry in hell... C.Perello

dani said...

wow, that sounds tough. i can't imagine how hard it is to put your work out there like that, up for critique. i would have wished the earth opened up. but then again, this make help you realise carmenita is a brilliant story told the way you tell it. good luck with it!

Michelle Fry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michelle Fry said...

I am so sorry. I don't believe every story needs to have redemption. That's an old fashioned notion and a very american one at that. I love the book "The Stranger" by Camus because there is no redemption. Better yet, the main character knows there is no redemption for him and revels in his own execution. Perhaps you are more gifted than your classmate can handle and he cannot concieve of anything his poor existence can't mimic. The bastard.

Marigoldie said...

I had a Mr. Salvation in my last workshop too. His name was Mr. Narrative Arc. Now it's true that my story lacked the appropriate tension, but it totally made up for it in character. Mr. N.A.'s story read like an Sunday afternoon TV drama, where Salvation was delivered on a big old obvious platter.

I think people who might lack actual talent often cling to technicalities, because those are things they can control.

madness rivera said...

Mr. Narrative Arc? HAHAHAHA. His endings were like, TADA? Mr. Salvation is actually a decent (tad boring) writer even if his crits are brutal, and I admitt this because I'm a big person. ha. Every workshop has these, unfortunately -- fortunately. They test your own conviction in what you are doing.

I finished reading all the notes - the ones I kept - and Lisa, my mentor, wrote that my story was like The Very Old Man With the Enormous Wings by Garcia Marquez which I haven't read in 20 years, but could there be a better compliment? I reread the Wings story yesterday and wow if that isn't odd and complicated. I loved it even when it takes much meditation to even get an idea of what it means.

Thanks to everyone for their comments. It actually makes me feel brave enough to tackle Carmenita again when usually I would just bury a story after a workshop like that and wait for it to beg to be revised. And yes, my stories talk to me.

laurenbove said...

It's the nature of the critique. Don't take it to heart but allow your mind to expand to cope with it. You will know what is crap and what is worthy of consideration. Obviously some pontificators just like the sound of their own voices and the juxtiposition of opposition. Often, it has nothing to do with the actual writing.

Cheer up! Keep on doing the good work.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be an interesting study in our new culture to see how blogs actually compare to the actual person....

Are people blogging what they wish their lives were really like - retelling the lies they tell themselves everyday while pushing the truth as far away as possible - or is it the hard, ugly truth.

Just a thought.

madness rivera said...

HAHAHAHA - kind of ironic & very amusing comment from behind the mask anonymity.