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

TITLE: The boon and curse of anonymity
By Gregory Kane
05/12/10


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Dull hazelnut eyes blinked back the bitter tears. Susan hadn't expected to win. It wasn't even as if she needed the prize money, what with Derrick's recent promotion and the extra cash coming in from social services. But she had desperately wanted to do well, to be recognised as a competent, maybe even gifted, wordsmith. Susan was sick and tired of people making allowances for her disability. She suspected that a number of her precious ribbons had more to do with the judges feeling sorry for her than with any real talent in her writing. That was why this competition had been so important to her. It was held anonymously so her story would have to stand or fall on its own merits.

Leaning forward, she scrolled back to the top of the email and read again what Basil, her assigned adjudicator had written. The short critique came as part of the service. That was why everyone had to pay a fee to enter. But Susan had naturally assumed that Basil's feedback would be positive and affirming. That was how her friends in the writing circle reviewed one another's work. Hence the stark words on the screen came as an unexpected blow:

"You need to pay more attention to the rudiments of English grammar. Two of your sentences lacked any principal verb. Your use of the semicolon is consistently incorrect and you persistently overuse the exclamation mark. I counted at least seventeen words that were misspelt, even allowing for regional variation, and the words osculate and amphibious were misapplied."

Susan wasn't entirely sure what Basil was talking about. At least he had had the good grace to start his critique with a few words of praise. But had he been physically present, sitting with his knees pressed against the cold metal of Susan's wheelchair, he might not have been quite as enthusiastic about pointing out her many faults.

Susan's composure cracked as she read again through Basil's next paragraph. Tears cascaded down rouged cheeks and dripped on to dull, unresponsive fingers. At first she considered calling Doris to wipe away the pooling salt water, but then she decided to let it stand as a testament to her fading hopes and dreams.

"The action scene with the marines storming the bridge was unrealistic and implausible. It read like something you might have seen in a made-for-television movie. As a writer you need to try and put yourself in the shoes of your main character. Had you, for instance, visited a suspension bridge and walked along it, you would probably have avoided many of your choreographic errors."

Two years before Susan would gleefully have charged along any convenient bridge, twirling giddily around the steel cables, even pirouetting underneath the vast concrete archways. But that was before the accident. Back when her legs did something more than just resemble fallen logs. Back in the good old days when Susan didn't have to call for help to do something as mundane as scratching an itch on the end of her nose.

Of course Basil wasn't to know. That was the boon and the curse of entering an anonymous competition. Everyone in Susan's small town knew her story, how she had vanquished self-pity, taken up a new hobby and joined a local writing circle. The problem was that her friends tended to overcompensate for her handicap, lauding her writing ability, such that Susan had genuinely thought she was a lot better than she really was. At least Basil had had the guts to tell her the truth.

Leaning forward again, she jabbed at the keyboard with her mouthstick, tapping out a short acknowledgement. She would discuss Basil's critique with Derrick and then write to him more fully by email. After what he had written in his final paragraph, he surely deserved a proper reply:

"I honestly believe that you have a great deal of raw, untapped talent. You just need time, discipline and hard work to bring it to light. Whatever you do, don't quit."

Susan couldn't help but smile at that. No matter what life threw at her, she certainly wasn't a quitter. Her limbs might ignore every neural instruction, but her grey matter was firing on all cylinders. As God was her witness, she would master the art of writing. And, God willing, she would re-enter the same competition the following year and let Basil see the fruits of his painful but necessary words.


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This article has been read 536 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mona Purvis05/13/10
I love this so much, maybe as much for selfish reasons as for its excellent voice.
It is so much easier to say good things when offering a critique, isn't it?
You accomplished a truly fresh look at the topic.
Excellent writing.
Love the spirit of both writer and critic. Now, we're getting somewhere.

Mona
Kimberly Russell05/17/10
I loved the MC's spunk and unwillingness to give up. And the fact that she was willing to entertain the facts about her writing without being so discouraged and slipping into despair. This really held my attention. Great job.
AnneRene' Capp 05/17/10
Now THIS is encouraging and powerful! Well written too! Glad you posted in "tossing a brick" as I have resolved myself to only reading level 3 and 4, when posted. (Just too many to read) :)
Jan Ackerson 05/17/10
"Spunk" is one of my favorite characteristics, and your MC has it in abundance!
Ann Grover05/17/10
Realistic character development, making Susan very human, but also resilient. We all need this kind of honesty, no matter what handicap we think we might be living with... plus the encouragement to keep going. On topic... well-written.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/17/10
I loved your main character. Your title was just right for this very original story.
Noel Mitaxa 05/18/10
I feel you have fully embraced your mc's emotional scope, and not allowed any self-pity to intrude on her sense of determination. As for the critic, you have allowed the irony of his comment about her lack of physical description speak for itself. Very well done.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge05/18/10
We all have handicaps to overcome. Your MC sets an excellent example for us. Critics cannot make us give up, only our response to them can do that. Thank you for a well written story and challenge.
Edmond Ng 05/20/10
I'm glad the MC stayed through and did not quit. As writers, we must always be ready to receive critiques, whether positive or negative. However if the critiques we received are aimed at tearing down, then we should not take such critiques to heart. Only in this way will we be able take a step forward and grow. Precious lessons here in your story. Thanks for sharing.