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

TITLE: Do You Really Want To Know?
By Genia Gilbert


“Kari, you have real talent. You must pursue your writing now, since the kids are older and you have more time.”

Those were Aunt Clara’s exact words to her, only a few months back. So it was natural for Kari to send her first piece of short fiction to her aunt before she submitted it to the Christian magazine. After all, Aunt Clara had written for newspapers for years, and still had a weekly column in the Shover Springs Times. Kari had asked her to critique her story before she did the final submission.

So why was it taking so long for Aunt Clara to answer? she wondered. It was unlike her to delay any communication.

On the day the envelope finally came, Kari couldn’t contain her excitement. She had worked really hard on the story, was proud of it, and anxious for her aunt’s approval.

After a brief greeting, Aunt Clara’s typewritten comments began:

"Kari, you used too many points of view in your story. It makes it quite confusing. Write only from your main character's perspective."

What? Surely Aunt Clara could see that she was just trying to show how each character had been affected by the tragedy.

A little miffed, Kari read on.

“I find the dialogue of the children much too mature for the age you are seeking to convey. Try to make them more believable and real.”

Ouch. Hadn’t she made a point to say that her “Serena” was a precocious child, and very advanced in her vocabulary?

This was definitely not the response she had expected from Aunt Clara. Kari was beginning to stiffen her shoulders. Moving down the page, she read another stinging comment:

“Your story is too rushed at the end. It leaves me feeling let down and not quite satisfied. It simply doesn’t finish as strongly as it begins.”

Now Kari was just plain mad.

How could she have ever thought that Aunt Clara would be encouraging? She just didn’t “get” her story at all. Maybe it was a generation difference.

About to crush and wad the offensive page with both hands, Kari saw a second sheet, and on it was a personal note. Unlike the comments, it was handwritten in Aunt Clara’s familiar script.

“Dearest Kari,
I have postponed this reply long enough, yet decided I must go ahead and send it. I am sure that your first reaction isn’t the best, since I’m acquainted with our “family temper.” However, I felt it the kindest and best thing to be very honest with you.

First of all, even though the root word is the same, never think of a critique as criticism of yourself personally, nor of your ability as a whole. Instead, realize that it’s simply an evaluation of that one particular piece.

Second, always be open to examination and observations . It is only by these that we discern how we are really “coming across” to others. It is also the way you will grow as a writer and as a person.

And lastly, when you have done your best with all the basic guidelines of good composition, and you have refined it again and again, determine whether its message is what you really want to say. If it is, then remember that your writing is just that – yours. It is, after all, the reason we write in the first place, to express ourselves in things that are important to us, even in writing fiction. Regardless of others’ opinions, be true to yourself.

The message of your story is a fine one. It has great potential, and I hope you will submit it (when it is finished, of course) As I’ve already told you, you have real talent, and you must pursue your writing now, since the kids are older and you have more time.

My love,

Aunt Clara"

Stomping and laughing now at the same time, Kari threw the letter on her desk.

Grr... Would she ever have the courage to ask her aunt for another critique?
Yes, she probably would.

With a wry grin and a long sigh, Kari picked up her story. She would re-read it and see what needed to be done.

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Member Comments
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Beth LaBuff 05/16/10
Great story! I think Aunt Clara will really be able to help Kari grow as a writer. I was fascinated by the critique too. Her handwritten letter took some of the sting out of the critique. Great title (in retrospect)!
Brenda Shipman 05/17/10
Aunt Clara is one very wise woman...and author...and mentor. Oh that we each had an Aunt Clara in our writing lives! I liked how you used a letter within your story to communicate so much wisdom. Great entry!