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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Critique/Review (for writers) (05/06/10)

TITLE: A Sourball Mood
By Dusti (Bramlage) Zarse


When I felt the gentle, all-too-familiar nudge, I sighed. I really didn’t feel like talking—especially not to Him. I was enjoying my bitter mood, thank you. My “sourball mood,” as my husband calls it. The last thing I wanted was to squelch it and have a polite, respectful conversation with the ultimate Judge—the Person (in a loose sense) who knew my thoughts before I spoke them. It really wasn’t fair. Given my current frame of mind, I’d deserve a good smiting before the exchange was over. I wasn’t ready to die. But then, thinking I really didn’t have much choice—would ignoring Him be blasphemous?—I mumbled a reluctant:

“Hey.” Yep. A flaming lightning bolt was in my future for sure.

“You want to talk about it?”

Not really.

“You do, you know.”

“What? Want to talk about it?” Hardly.

“Have a choice. You always have a choice.”

Of course. By the way, the mind-reading thing? So not fair.

“So, do you want to talk about it?”

“Sure. Why not?”

I was already going to hell for this conversation, anyway.

“It’s your writing, isn’t it?”

However did you guess?

“How did you do?” His patience was incredible.

“Like you don’t know.”

“I’d like to hear it from you…. You friend Elyse is having a baby isn’t she? Her first?”

She was.

“She tell you about it?”

No. I’d discovered that little tidbit of information via a social networking site. We were supposed to be best friends. “She should have told me herself,” I grumbled.

I felt more than heard a poignant pause.

“Oh. Right.”

I felt Him waiting, and I sighed.

“Fifth place.”

“Sounds pretty good to Me.”

“Humph. It’s not exactly first.”

“You can’t win first every time.”

And why not? “I thought You had my back on this one. I thought we wrote this together.”

“We did.”


“Well, what?”

“First place?”

I felt a chuckle that wasn’t my own. “You don’t think I was helping the person who did win first place?”

“So she’s more important than me? Is that it?”

“Maybe she needed it more.”

“More than me? Well, if You haven’t noticed (yeah right), I’m about to quit, here. Finito. Done. No more writing. The end.”

“That would be a shame.”

“Would it? You know, God, I have to wonder why you gave me a passion I’m only mediocre at. If I won more often, if I got published, if people loved my writing, then I’d get it. And if I was flat out terrible, then I’d quit. But why do You whet my appetite enough to keep me coming back for more, only to smash me down with biting critiques?”

“I don’t write the critiques.”

“Well, You don’t stop them. You don’t crash their computers or dry up their pens when they’re writing them.”

“I see.”

“It’s not that I mind constructive criticism, God. I don’t. If the point of the review or critique is to help me grow as a writer, fine. Good. But…do you know how many times I’ve heard ‘I just plain don’t like it’? Where’s the instruction in that? How is THAT supposed to help me as a writer? It just makes me want to quit.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I’ve tried. But then something in me gets stirred, and words gnaw at me until I give up and release them. I can’t help it. It’s like I can’t stop writing any more than I can stop breathing…. I suppose that’s Your fault.”

“I suppose so.”

I sighed.

“Tell Me, child, when you write, do you write from the heart?”

“You know I do…. Maybe that’s why it hurts so much. They’re not just rejecting my writing, you know? They’re rejecting me.”

“And that hurts, doesn’t it?”

“You have no idea.”

“Don’t I?”

“…You know what I mean.”

“Is there anything you can learn from all this?”

“That negative critiques are written by the spawn of Satan?”

I felt the frown and sighed.

“That negative critiques hurt.”


“And I should make it a point to write positive ones—” a light-bulb went on— “especially with beginning writers.”

“That’s My girl.”

I sat dumbfounded. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

“Feeling better?”

I laughed. “I would have struck me with a lightning bolt, you know.”

“Yes…but you’re only human. Aren’t you glad I’m not?”

The understatement of the year.

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This article has been read 608 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Shipman 05/14/10
Ahhh, I feel your pain - been there, thought that, a million times. I think you captured what most of us struggle with so often as writers. Not gonna write a negative critique with this one, because you nailed the writer's common temptation, to give up. Keep pressing on - for our audience of One!
Amanda Brogan05/14/10
This is such a good story and a great lesson learned by the main character! I love the conversation with God.

I can relate to the character's "sourball mood." It's almost like we think, "I'm doing just fine being grumpy and I don't feel like cheering up right now." Humans can be so goofy. It's a good thing God is patient and doesn't strike us with lightning bolts when we mess up. ;)

I found this entry very encouraging. Thanks for sharing!
Marilyn Schnepp 05/15/10
"Everybody gets the Blues sometme," is a Merle Haggard song I love...and you have pointed out that all Writers get them also. Many months go by and not even in top 40 and sometimes no critiques either; However, if just one somebody, reads just one poem, story or essay and gets a blessing from it...we've sewed a seed for God. Right? Nice job of telling it like it is!
Gregory Kane05/16/10
Eek, don't dare say anything critical lest I be labelled the spawn of Satan!!!
You certainly touched on a few emotions that we all express on a regular basis. But, hey, fifth place is good in any level.
AnneRene' Capp05/17/10
I totally, totally liked this! So creatively unique, and most of all...loved the flair of humor and truth with truth and more truth! :)
Mildred Sheldon05/18/10
I loved the title and the contents. Boy this hit me right between the eyes. Beautifully written and right on point. Good job of expressing how many writers have felt and some still do.
Susan Montaperto05/18/10
Very inventive story and a very good read. Thank you.
Amanda Brogan05/20/10
Congrats on second place! This entry deserved it. :)
Beth LaBuff 05/20/10
Dusti, this conversation with God is wonderful, I could "hear" it! ...and I love your powerful ending! Super congrats on your Editor's Choice!!!
Charla Diehl 05/25/10
Because you've captured what I (and many writers) feel today, I am encouraged. Thank you so much. Hats off to you for your placements with this entry. Great work.
Maria Kana Santos05/28/10
You deserve the place, indeed! I identify myself with your MC. Like her, tears are shed feeling discouraged as a writer. But the ending, the resolve encouraged me to do as your MC decided to do-- with God's gracious help. I like your writing and your voice very much. Thank you so much. God bless you.
Patsy Hallum06/04/10
I have thought these words often. Thank you for putting them on paper so nicely. Thanks for the constructive criticism on my challenge entry. I write from the heart and forget to read it with an editors heart sometimes. I will work on that.