Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

September 17, 1997 to September 27, 1997

J R Deveau Sat Sep 27 04:54:20 PDT 1997

Hi all, I'm a little new to this so I hope I'm not intruding. Writing is a pasion that I rarely get to indulge. Work is a royal pain but it keeps my butt out of the streets. I'll try to stop in now and again. Until then, au revoir...

Rhoda Fri Sep 26 21:12:45 PDT 1997


Just when I feel I'm getting to know you from your posts, off you go. I suppose I understand, but I will miss your insights and the excitement you lend to the Writer's Notebook. I wish you all the best. Hope you do decide to come back soon. Till then, God Bless You.

In general:

I have nothing else to add. I am too distraught. I suppose people come and go around here, but I am realitively new at this sight, and I find it hard to get used to. As long as I have my Internet connection, I intend to keep popping in every day or so.

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Sep 26 19:06:18 PDT 1997

Victoria: The answer is yes. Either here or directly via email to the person is OK. Most likely latter is most appropriate, but if you find something in a piece and feel a broader audience is more useful please feel free to post your criticques here.

Victoria Fri Sep 26 17:39:00 PDT 1997

Hello, everyone--

I'm new to this forum, and would like to ask about the etiquette of critiquing the manuscript excerpts in the Workbook. Are the critiques posted here, in the Notebook, or sent via e-mail to the individuals? Thanks in advance for your input.


Michael Parish Fri Sep 26 17:29:44 PDT 1997

Boy, I can sure relate to those of you who've had problems with writing groups. I am a Writing English major and my ultimate dream is to support myself writing novels. Because of my major, I've taken some Creative Writing classes. One of these classes required that we were formed into groups of eight to critique each other's writing. Three words: DON'T GO THERE.

I never saw such a bunch of collective ego-tripping. At the beginning of the semester we had to introduce ourselves and talk about our goals in regards to writing. It was obvious that not one member of the class actually planned to write novels for the rest of their lives. It was just something to do. But even then, they protected anything they wrote with an iron-clad ego.

Basically, I got tired of getting criticized every time I made a comment on somebody's story. I got sick of being talked down in the group. I don't think anything bothers me more than that. I have a subscription to Writer's Digest. I study fiction writing, whether from a book or a magazine, every day. Fiction writing is in my blood, it's what I want to do more than anything else in the world, and I have to sit and listen to a bunch of hobbyists who tell me I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm not really cocky about my writing, even though my last statement might sound like it. I don't mind criticism directed at me (although some of them made some pretty dumb suggestions). But I despise any writer who feel that he/she is "God's Gift to American Literature." This kind of person is above any criticism, because they feel their work has no flaw. People like this do not belong in a writer's group, but if it's part of a class, what can you do?

Sorry for ranting. I'll have something more productive to say next time. Anybody that wants to comment on my comments is welcome.

Fri Sep 26 17:23:06 PDT 1997

TaiMing Fri Sep 26 17:00:47 PDT 1997

Jack: The archive is the perfect place for the most of the dialogues that have been going on in the last week, including mine! I personally have a thing for tabula rasa.(I always have to scribble all over it!!) Besides, we are such prolific writers (at least in the Notebook), it's taking me forever to download the site! (But I'd wait for an hour if I had to....)

To All: Although it looks like we're going to be losing Philip's valuable insight and input, to quote him when we last spoke...."I'm not DEAD!". And of course, he's not. He said he'll check in once in a while and I'm sure he will. This wonderful site and all attached to it aren't dead either. WE make it what it is, today AND tomorrow. Peace.

Clyde: Intensely disliking freeways myself, and extremely fond of backroads, I am in total agreement with your note. Just a question or two....why don't you contribute or critique? In the big picture of it all, isn't that why we're all here? For the companionship, support and assistance - as well as the forum for our writing? Let us lend you our ears....we love to listen!

Lastly....Philip: Mr. McLaren, I'm going to miss you as many of us are bound to do. I want to thank you for all your critiques and contributions. Do keep an eye on us. I know we'd all appreciate it. And jump in now and again to let us know how're you doing! However, we all know that success becomes you quite well. Much more in the future..... Godspeed friend!

Tai Ming (hugs to all)

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Sep 26 16:24:44 PDT 1997

Clyde: Thank you for that. I really could not have said it better myself.

Also, a note for everyone, this site just reached 100k. I'll let it go for another day or so, but I thought when I add a new topic on Sunday. I will archive things here and start us out with a very very blank slate, viva la tabula rasa.

Clyde Dixon Fri Sep 26 15:01:50 PDT 1997

Well, well. It seems that a bit of the "negative" side of human nature has surfaced here on my favorite web site.

It is true, that the Web, like cars and some other forms of technology, tend to make interaction between people less personal, more remote, and as a result, sometimes less civil. I recognize this in myself, and try to avoid the freeway at rush hour; I don't like the way it makes me feel when I get upset at the occasional INSANE, INCONSIDERATE #$%@! driver.

Some years ago, my grandfather died of a heart attack after a confrontation on the road. Soon after that, we started hearing the stories about people being shot on the freeways of LA.

Currently my grandmother and three other people are in the hospital and two people are dead because a guy tried to pass in a construction zone.

My point? Cars are OK if used correctly and so is this web site. However, we must all be aware of how we act and react in a given situation.

None of us want to cause harm to others. Nor do we want to be harmed. Like the mix of drivers out there on the roads, we all have our own styles. We may find the drivers slower than us or faster than us to be annoying, but that is not their problem, it is ours.

A deep breath and nice "long cut" on a country road bypassing the worst part of my commute is my solution. It is slower, but I have the expectation that it will be slower. Somehow a slow freeway is just so frustrating.

I have watched this site since just before Britomart got published. I have not submitted any writing. Nor have I critiqued any. But I have found the conversations about writing and the updates of peoples writing careers to be quite inspirational.

Take a deep breath and ignore those writers or critiquers who are not compatible with your style. But as with driving don't think for a moment that you are correct and all those other guys are idiots. We all have something to learn from this interaction.

So be curtious to the other guy and keep an eye out for slower/faster/student drivers/writers. We all loose it sometimes, understanding why could save your life or simply make your life more enjoyable and productive.

Good Writing,

Goodweed of the North Fri Sep 26 07:16:30 PDT 1997

If you truly have a need to back out and watch, take a
vacation from the group. As I said in my last posting,
those who are the most talented are the same people who get
burnt-out by overwork.
I know you are thick-skinned enough to handle the
occasional emotional outbursts which come with critiqueing.

To everyone else. We are adults here. We can survive
without Phillip if need be. However, don't get me wrong. I
would like to see him stay as well. Under differing
circumstances, I have experiance a need to get away from a
leadership position. After a three month hiatus, I returned
and was more valuable to the organization than I was before
I left. It had nothing to do with writing, but was still
a position of responsability.

My only regret is that I have had only the most breif
opportunity to get to know you, Phillip. We are physically
seperated by oceans. I can't shake your hand and
congradulate you on your sucess. I can't take you out to
lunch, or go fishing with you. One of my great joys in life
is making freinds. Not so I can get something from the
freind, but rather so I can be a partner in life with that
person. I would have liked that with you. Though I am very
unschooled in the art of writing, I have a ton of life
experiance. In addition, I love the creative process and
the opportunity to learn new skills. You are the same. We
just have differing experiances.

Good luck in your endeavors, Phil.

Jack: I can't thank you enough for this notebook. It is a
dynamic forum for the exchange of information. I think all
will be well. Many of us are new, and still learning to use
the forum. Like all good things which grow, it takes a bit
of nurturing and will experiance some growing pains. You
have built a valuable and unique scource for writers.

This is to all of you in cyberspace who are reading this.
If you know any accomplished writers out there who enjoy
discussion, or even the occasional heated discussion,
invite them to this group. I'm trying to do just that.

We do need mentors, and I am convinced that though
university training is essential, it is the rare proffesor
who is open-minded enough to nuture creativity in all but
the very narrow parameters of "accepted literature". I have
no clue why this is, but have experianced it.

Well, I've written a book here so I'll quit now so others
can post.

Kae: write me for the fun of it. I want to see more of
your book.

Seeeeya: Goodweed of the North

Bob Hanford Fri Sep 26 05:30:55 PDT 1997

Don't you want to grow old with us Philip?

Joan Fri Sep 26 04:48:47 PDT 1997

AMEN and ditto to what Tai Ming said.

Phillip: Please don't jump ship. You are needed and appreciated.

Jack: Thanks for the info on the server---sorry for being impatient.


Britomart Fri Sep 26 01:06:32 PDT 1997

If anyone's interested, the above link is to an electronic version of a recent interview I did for the Sydney Morning Herald. There's even a photo! It's almost like being famous!


Britomart Fri Sep 26 01:02:13 PDT 1997

But Philip, we neeeeed you!!!

PS. Did you see me in the SMH? I am "the Uber Goth"!

TaiMing Fri Sep 26 00:30:41 PDT 1997

LORD, Philip!!!!! Just when I get to not only appreciate you far beyond what my normal proclivities allow, and when your critiques are so much appreciated (and not just by ME), you are checking out???? GIVE ME A BREAK!!!! Not just yet....I implore you!!! There may be difficult discourse here, but we are all difficult in our own little tiny ways. Let your voice, as always, be the voice of wisdom...We NEED your input! Just as we need your work(s) to peruse....And we need you to peruse ours! Yours is not a soul crying out blindly in the night, as many of us are. Yours is a soul with reason, right-thinking and the sensibilities of experience. Face to face comments are far and few between for most of us. We do not need (and I especially do not want) the politeness of smiles while I am being critiqued or edited. I want TRUTH.....and you give truth. If anyone else is having problems with you (although I imagine it would be hard to do....), simply leave them alone. I would sorely dislike losing your insight, simply spoken critiques, and your obvious available knowledge of which we all seek. While I realize many of us may be too "green", as one of my Young Writer friends puts it, we are seeking to grow. You can provide nurturing for our growth. Surely, you can at least reconsider your decision. I truly value your contributions. Please (PLEASE!!!) do not abandon us...Please think about it first. I know I, for at least one, would be very joyful if you would...

Most sincerely, TaiMing.....(hugs?????)

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Sep 25 21:15:36 PDT 1997

This is a plea to stop, take a deep breath and not alter the makeup of this very special place too radically. Flame Wars and rudeness have been a definite rarity here and, given exposure to several much worse flurry of angst on other mailing list, our exchanges here have been downright civil at their worst.

     Phillip: Your knowledge, wit and depth of understanding about the writing life are much appreciated. If distance is necessary, let me just say that I will miss your posts here and hope that you will feel more comfortable at returning in the future.

And, as an additional suggestion to hopefully move the discussion in slightly different directions. Could we take a moment and think about the mentors either in print or in person that have fashioned a positive effect on us by doing positive things. In other words past rights rather than past wrongs that helped the writing process and life along.

     If others have more appropriate topics of discussion I will happily entertain them and move the focus of things here in a slightly different direction. Take care.

Lisa Nickles Thu Sep 25 19:21:32 PDT 1997

I had to share this with you guys... A friend of mine sent it to me. Enjoy...

Modern version of Edgar Allen Poe

Abort, Retry, Ignore?
(Anne's alt. title, "The PC Maven")

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor, =

Longing for the warmth of bed sheets, still I sat there doing
spreadsheets. Having reached the bottom line I took a floppy from the
drawer, I then invoked the SAVE command and waited for the disk to
store, Only this and nothing more. =


Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond'ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some
more. But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token.
"Save!" I said, "You cursed machine! Save my data from before!" One
thing did the phosphors answer, only this and nothing more, Just,
"Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Was this some occult illusion, some maniacal intrusion? =

These were choices undesired, ones I'd never faced before. =

Carefully I weighed the choices as the disk made impish noises. =

The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting, baiting me to type some more.
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more, >From
"Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

With fingers pale and trembling, slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored, Praying for
some guarantee, timidly, I pressed a key But on the screen there still
persisted words appearing as before. Ghastly grim they blinked and
taunted, haunted, as my patience wore, Saying "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

I tried to catch the chips off guard, and pressed again, but twice as
hard. I pleaded with the cursed machine: I begged and cried and then I
swore. Now in mighty desperation, trying random combinations, Still
there came the incantation, just as senseless as before. Cursor
blinking, angrily winking, blinking nonsense as before. Reading,
"Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

There I sat, distraught, exhausted, by my own machine accosted.
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor. =
And then I saw a dreadful sight: a lightning bolt cut through the
night. A gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my very core. The
lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forevermore. Not
even, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

To this day I do not know, the place to which lost data go. =

What demonic nether world us wrought where lost data will be stored,
Beyond the reach of mortal souls, beyond the ether, into black holes?
But sure as there's C, Pascal, Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more, You will
one day be left to wander, lost on some Plutonian shore, Pleading,
"Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

philip Thu Sep 25 18:11:52 PDT 1997


Re: other parts to this week's topic, ego and critique.

It is difficult being criticised or criticising heart-felt artistic effort. Some critiques are offered by horrible, harsh and brutal people, some are put forward by good, kind and gentle folk; some are useless and some are right on the money. Such are the differences in people. There are good writers and bad writers as there are good and bad doctors, lawyers, bakers and critiquers. But overriding everything else, complex psychological factors come into play. Whenever two or more people interact they bring with them their life's experience, their character make up, their baggage. So it is with writer and reader. All of us are unique but none are the centre of the universe - not even you.

I understand ego and personality to be part of the same psychological characteristic. The id, the development of our personality in childhood (0-6 years), is recognised by psychologists as the most critical time in our lives in determining how we behave as adults but it is the time we least remember; the ego, that which is our individuality, is the place where rational self conscious thought prevails; and the superego - which takes longer to develop and is extremely complex and fragile - is where artists live or operate from. Those artists who are able to survive the attack on their ego by their superego (which is necessary to achieve originality) are those who excel.

The development of the superego as an abstract entity I learned of fairly early in life, it wasn't until much later that I felt its existence.

'The Artist learns to trust her unconscious and its hidden logic and coherence. She may have to suffer much pain, anxiety and doubt in order to complete her secret development.'

'The Hidden Order of Art' - by Anton Ehrenzweig 1970.

The odds of being published by my publishers this past year was one in two thousand five hundred and it is worse in the USA. Hundreds of well established authors are being cut by publishers as the industry rethinks its future. Writers who are thin-skinned, touchy, hotheaded individuals who are irrational and over-react to any criticism whatsoever, seek help now. With a writer's success comes criticism or the most ferocious kind - Britomart recently told us that - and knows from what she speaks - her advice comes from a unique vantage point.

Truth in critiquing: As Bob Hanford pointed out in his posting a short while back, there are people in our group who believe their work is already good enough to be published and have moved on to the book world of agents, contracts etc while in reality they don't have the basic grasp of the English language (forget about creating captivating stories that publishers might want to spend limited finances producing and marketing). Truth in critiquing is an extremely rare thing and I uphold the notion that false praise is more damaging than no praise. For Bob that posting was a difficult thing to write but you know in your own soul that he wrote the truth. He was sparing, he didn't name names and I'm not going to either. It is essential that people have hopes and dreams but writers must be able to write, attention to language is essential. I understood that Bob was saying forget all else until that is in place. I applaud him for saying so and I echo that point now.

Sensitivity: Social and environmental factors play the major part in conditioning or forming our personalities. We all remember and carry experiences that we can never forget but learn to deal with so we are able to move on with our lives and not obsess over them. Obsession is considered to be a neurosis and may lead to psychotic episodes. Ironically obsession is one of the greatest assets artists have, if little else, and hopefully they (we) have this in common.

I know people in our group who have suffered the horrors of war, torture, death, grief, cancer, racism, rape, insanity, ethnic cleansing, invasion, assimilation, poverty, depravity, paedophilia, institutional bashings and more. We bring these with us to our postings, they are part of us. And for the most part we behave well, as polite citizens will, understanding that we all have baggage that we carry.

Group therapy works. As well as a place for expression of specific work related topics, writers' groups are also therapeutic.

Rudeness: I'm sure we have all seen unacceptable attitudes , rude and even disgusting behaviour on the Net - that we just know would never happen in face-to-face encounters. I'm really in favour of face-to-face groups for these reasons.

While I have valued this group and have enjoyed being a part of it for more than a year, I shall now banish myself to exile in favour of face-to-face politeness. But I will be watching...

Good luck!

Goodweed of the North Thu Sep 25 16:28:35 PDT 1997

This is not a timely critique, but I have to give it anyway. Last night, I read "The Train" in the workbook. I found only two small errors. I have to say that one of my favorite authors of all time is Harlan Ellison. "The train" is of the same caliber. It was so good, and so powerful. It reminded me of two classic short stories; "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" by the above mentioned Harlan Ellison, and "The Lottery" (I read it a loooong time ago and am afraid I can't remember the author's name).
Anyway, kudos to all the participants in the project.

Phil; I've read your posting in the workbook. I can tell that it is not your final draft. I'll E-mail my critique if you wish. But I think the story-line is extremely good. It's very original. You have a gift like another person I sorespond with. That is, you can take the everyday events and circumstances and turn them into a great story. I am not nearly so observant. I envy your ability in that. I tend more toward the philisophical and imaginary. That is where I think my talent lies. Fortunately, there is room in the wonderful world of readers for both.
To the rest of you hard working writers who post on the workbook. I'm going to set a time for myself to critique your work. I'm certainly no expert but hope I can help.

Kae; Don't quit the group. First, I don't think you have it in you. You are just too curious about life and everything in it, and second, every viewpoint is a valuable tool. So what if you're a hothead. So what if you get told to shut up! You tell me you're tough. I know what you are.
You're someone, like me, and probably every other person on the notebook who needs to feel a little respect, a little (can I say this word in public about anyone other than my imediate family) love. Besides, I need someone to ballance my "goody-two-shoes" personality. LOL
Everyone, on three, One, Two, Three, Kae come back!!!

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Sep 25 11:20:34 PDT 1997

Kae: I hope that you will eventually feel comfortable enough to post again. In any case, please know that I personally enjoy your postings here and your presence, opinionated or not. Take care and good luck with your writing.

Kae Thu Sep 25 10:40:49 PDT 1997

Bob H.: It's been brought to my attention that I jumped on you too quickly. I've learned that you're really not the type to viciously attack someone, and that your comment about "let it go" was most likely meant with only the best intentions. At the time, probably due to the fact that I don't know you, I considered it rather flip, heartless, and very condescending, particularly since I was trying to share how much the pain I experienced due to a malicious critiquer affected me. I have since been advised that you probably meant no harm, and were in fact trying to help. I have a rather emotional, even hotheaded, way of expressing myself, and a lot of time that is mistaken for brashness by those who are used to a more logical approach. In any event, I apologize for biting your head off.

That said, I would like to thank the ten or so other posters that recognized the emotional battery that I endured. I wasn't looking for sympathy, exactly-I just wanted to share. I'm a pretty strong person, and opinionated, I guess, and occasionally it gets me in trouble. The professor's cruelty was one of the heartaches I've experienced in my life that sincerely rocked me to the core. In retrospect I realize that the professor that berated me recognized in me something that maybe she wished she had, herself. It's nice (and very sad) to know that I'm not the only bright-eyed kid that was a meal for a failed writer.

I have done the best thing I could do about it-I decided she was wrong. Took me a little while, like it would any trauma, I guess, but like Victoria, I eventually started writing again. Like the cliché says, living well is the best revenge. It applies in this case, even if not word for word.

I have enjoyed every minute of my time on this page, and have learned a great deal. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of you. We've had some great discussions, even if we didn't always agree-but that's what made it interesting. When it gets to the point of maliciousness, though, that's where I draw the line. As I said earlier, I send a sincere apology to Bob H for my callousness. I was angry, but I'm also human. I don't consider myself to be a "smart-assed, sarcastic little shit," though some contributors to this page would disagree. Either way, the line has been crossed for me, and I really doubt I will contribute to this page in the future.

Good luck to everybody-I know you will all succeed. To those who have, way to go! Keep the faith. Live and let live, people.

See ya. Kae Brown.

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Sep 24 21:15:04 PDT 1997

Rhoda: Yes, you should be able to cut and paste from a word processor. In Win95 it's a simple right click once you have made the Text box active. You might have to tweak the alignments and paragraphs, which requires HTML to accomplish I have to admit. On another note about the design of the Notebook as a website. Phillip had problems trying to load the Notebook and I suspect others may have as well, so I eliminated the table that was giving the border and causing everyone's text to load last. This should make things happen quicker. Take care and sorry about trying to get pretty with this very special page. Function before beauty. Take care and hope this helps.

Rosemary Wed Sep 24 19:24:04 PDT 1997

Boy! Gone for a day and there's more on the board than the entire last week. Great subject. San Antonio is usually thought of as a small town but I think we're up to tenth largest in the U.S.A. Over a Million people and a bunch of them write. There are two main writers' groups not counting chapters of national groups like Romance Writers of America. I belong to one of them and it is excellent for information, encouragement, and all round socialization. (sp?) Even so, I usually check in on the notebook about twice a day just to see what is going on.
I was so glad to hear you say you had received only one response to your work in the workbook. I thought every one except you hated mine and didn't want to hurt my feelings.

By the way, Even though my story in the workbook is about Christmas, it is very timely for our current subject. It's about the problems Santa might have getting his manuscript critiqued. In case any one feels like picking on it, I would appreciate any response.

It also sounds like everyone had a terrible childhood. I was 5'9" by eighth grade and at least 1 to 2 years younger than everyone in the class. Add to that alcoholic parents, father in the military. Never spent more than 1 1/2 years in one place until high school. Like I said, maybe writers need to be tortured when young?
That's more than enough for now

Wed Sep 24 19:24:02 PDT 1997

Rhoda Wed Sep 24 18:39:44 PDT 1997

To Jack or to anyone else who can help:

Must I type my whole passage into the Writer's Workbook? Can I attach a file? Or is there a way I can paste from a windows word processor file directly onto the text space?

Those of you who post on The Writer's Workbook, please let me know. My daily time on the Internet is restricted, so I most post in the quickest way possible.

Thanks much!


Goodweed of the North Wed Sep 24 18:11:20 PDT 1997

Wow! In the time it took me to post my last comments, (and clean up after two not-yet housebroken puppies, more postings have been put in the notebook refering to my earlier posting.

This is a clareification of my position toward your books, Phil. I have heard from several people on the notebook that your work is really good. I enjoy reading good books. I don't need to critique them. I just want to read and enjoy them.

This really reminds me of the letters my wife and I would send each other while I was at sea. If ideas wern't quite clear, things got blown way out of proportion.

Thanks for letting me know how I can find and purchase your work Phil.

Seeeya; Goodweed of the North

Joan Wed Sep 24 18:04:13 PDT 1997

Hi all---

I've been following the notebook this week, alternately jumping up and down yelling YES and NO, and nodding my head. In other words, it seems like we've all had a lot of similar experiences. I haven't read anything anyone said that wasn't valid and valuable---even if it was totally adverse to what someone else had to say.

In other words---it IS a writer's group, kind of a big dysfunctional family (aren't they all?) where everyone generally cares about the same thing but has different ways of expressing it.

Here are my feelings--and go ahead and jump all over me if I've characterized something wrong. Kae, I think your feelings are entirely reasonable and it's refreshing that you speak your mind so freely. Adds life to the group, and that's good. Phillip, it's always good to hear what you have to say, even tho you state it strongly. You have a level of experience and a perspective that many of us do not. Jack and Bob (and many of the others), you seem to be the voices of reason, kind of the peacemakers--tho you raise interesting questions that are not always easy or comfortable to answer. As someone on the notebook said, probably most of us have things about us that make us different. Me? I was nearly 6 feet tall in 7th grade, and pigeon-toed, of all things. Try that in a town of 1500 people, and you might as well stamp Wallflower on your forehead. I think being different at that age sets you apart in a way for life. But . . . actually that's kind of a good thing. I've always read, always written. I just didn't begin to believe until 9-10 years ago that it might be possible to actually write something other people would read. So now, I'm doing something I love PASSIONATELY---whether or not people tear it apart---and it's now OK to be tall. The best of all worlds.

I know I've left some people unmentioned, but I hope with all the to-do about the topic, no one leaves the Notebook. It's an extremely valuable group, and one to which I feel a kind of emotional connection (sorry).


What do I think a writer's group should be? Just what we are. Everyone is not going to critique the same. Some of the most caustic critiquers I've had in the past have performed the very important task of forcing me to think. Sometimes it hurt, but it often helped---even if I didn't agree with them. Personally, I try to layer criticism with praise. I've only ever critiqued one story that I could find nothing good to say about.

Along those lines (deep breath, here) how many people are looking at the Workbook? I've posted there recently and had only one response, with one more coming. I have to confess, I haven't critiqued a lot of things that were on there, and that's probably not fair---someone could be sitting there waiting and waiting to hear (I'm not, particularly---I just E-mailed a couple of people to ask for comments; fresh, huh?). I'm going to make a pact with myself to set aside a little time to critique there, whether or not the writing is something I know a lot about or read a lot. What do you all think?

As usual, I've written way too much. Hope someone gets thru this!


Goodweed of the North Wed Sep 24 17:47:16 PDT 1997

Wish I could be of more help with this. However, I live in a small comunity on the U.S. Canadian border (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan). There are no Writer's groups around here. I've looked. We do have a succesful author of historical fiction in the area. Her name is Sue Harrison. She wrote the bestselling works, "Mother Earth, Father Sky" and two sequels. She recieved many honors for her work.
I digress. Sorry. This notebook is for me, the ideal forum. We have a broad range of talents and viewpoints here. Brittomart; I believe you. Phil; thanks for the council on the net. Jack; you make this all possible. Thanks. I agree with the others who say that this informal meeting place we all visit, is the ideal writer's group. It allows us to read, critique, and recieve serious critique, yet allows us to participate as we are able. I don't know about the rest of you but I have a day job which requires a lot of my time and a family which requires the same.
(I HATE TYPOS BECAUSE I MAKE SO MANY, just corrected a couple).
I am dead serious about becoming a published writer of quality entertainment. This forum gives me points of view and critique I can get no where else. The MANY other sites I have searched are fairly stagnant in comparison to the dynamic dialogue posted in this notebook.
My only impossible wish is that I could recieve training by some of the great authors I have read. I fully understand though how overwhelmed a succesful person can become by the demands placed upon him/her. In every job I have ever had, those who did the best work tended to be given so much work that they eventually burned out, though usualy only for a short while.

All of you participants from Australia. I loved Perth when I was there. Got a grey opal for fifteen dollars, brought it back to the States, had it set in a ring for my wife, worth a rediculous amount of money for the price I paid for it.

But you know what was better than the great deal on the opal? Some local folks invited us to spend time in their homes while we sailors were in port. Now that's hospitality! Of Course, we did share the same religeous faith. Thanks Australia for my time in Perth in the year 1983. Oh, by-the-way. I quit the great, grey canoe club way back in '86.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Victoria Wed Sep 24 17:38:40 PDT 1997


I got serious deja vu when I read your message. I had an almost identical experience with a college writing course. Luckily it only lasted a year, but it seemed like a lifetime.

From the Hemingway wannabe teacher (who struggled mightily to get us all to write short sentences; he especially hated my frequent semicolons) to the insecure students whose gigantic yet extremely fragile egos were constantly on display, it was one of the most negative experiences I've ever had. Critique was engaged in as a way to build up one's own self-esteem by savaging the work of others; never in my life have I received so little constructive criticism. As the sole writer of science fiction, I came in for a weekly drubbing (not literary enough). Beyond a few feeble pleas for tolerance ("can't we all just get along?") the teacher did nothing at all to stem the tide of ramapant negativism and bad attitudes, or to remind people of the difference between critique and personal attack.

By the time the class was over, I was convinced not only that I had no talent, but that I was just too hopelessly uncool ever to be a writer, because I didn't have multiple body piercings, or maintain a drug habit, or come to class hung over. I didn't write a word for more than four years after that.

I don't know if any of those people are still writing; I don't know if any of them ever published (the teacher did get a couple of novels published, much to my fury). The important thing is that I eventually found my voice again, and even met with some success. But the sting of the experience remains. It's hard to leave something like that behind, especially when you experience it fairly young; it leaves a very deep imprint on your soul.

In recent years I've felt the impulse to get involved with a writers' group again, mainly because I feel so isolated in my work--I know no one else who is involved in creative endeavor. But even if my college experience hadn't left me wary, there aren't any professional groups in my area. I have met a lot of writers the Internet, though, and they are a very different bunch from the ones I knew in college. It gives me hope!


Wed Sep 24 17:26:18 PDT 1997

Philip Wed Sep 24 17:11:24 PDT 1997


If you really want to read some of my writing to evaluate my work, I've posted several thousand words in the Workbook and you are able to buy my books on the Net from Amazon books.

(I suppose you automatically discount the work I emailed you in private).

Don't misunderstand me, I don't need more criticism than I already receive, my books have been reviewed by Australia's finest literature critics and are studied, set for many Australian university courses, so my work is dissected and pulverised pretty well. To make matters worse (and to reveal to all my perverse nature) I accept invitations to speak to students of my work, in their lion dens, to face the music personally so to speak. I have also won a national prize for literature, that must count for something.

If you want to read what Australia's leading critics wrote in their reviews of my books they are online...

In short, my work is easily accessible for anyone to read and evaluate, so you don't have to 'accept that it is good stuff on faith' - you can read it and decide its merits for yourself. In any event, I am in no doubt that to some my work is pure horseshit.

Back soon - Philip.

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Sep 24 17:03:57 PDT 1997

Bob: I also can vouch for Phillip's writing. He is award winning and deservably so. More importantly he is an engrossing read. And, speaking of another Australian writer, Britomart is also exceptional as well.

Britomart: Speaking as one who is half way through The Infernal and passing along the review of my wife who could not put it down and finally finished it at four in the morning, you are an exceptional writer and it is truly sadness that you are not all over the store shelves over here in the states.

Take care everyone.

Britomart Wed Sep 24 16:04:38 PDT 1997

PS. Surely it's a rare individual who wasn't teased as a child. Everybody's a misfit, really, some of us square pegs just manage to squeeze into round holes from time to time.

Britomart Wed Sep 24 15:52:51 PDT 1997

I've never belonged to a writers' group except this one (which I loooove), and I've never asked an amateur writer to provide a critique of my unpublished work. Before I was published, the only people I let see my work were my boyfriend, my best friend, and the published author who eventually passed it on to his agent. Opinions are only ever opinions, but they can hurt and they can spin you off in the wrong direction if you have thin skin.

Now, remember this - when you all get your work published and somebody decides to have a go at it very publicly (ie. a reviewer) it's going to be ten times worse than some stuffy professor who's upset that you haven't produced a work for the canon. Start growing those thick skins now, because (and I say this from recent experience) it really, really hurts.

Goodweed: I can vouch for Phil's writing - he's a well-respected and award-winning Australian author, and they set his novels in Australian literature courses in the universities over here.

Bob: Was it what you said or how you said it? You know you're still my favourite. ;-x


Rhoda Wed Sep 24 15:04:44 PDT 1997

It seems a very supportive group here at Writer's Notebook. I'd be very proud to have anyone of you in any writer's group I would attend.

It seems also that most of us have shared the experience of having individuals in our pasts who have conveyed the idea to us that we would never amount to anything. Perhaps these experiences are what have helped make us writers. I once had a teacher in high school who told me I'd never sell in fiction because I couldn't write expansively. I could not show in my writing, only tell. I've come to find out that this is a common problem with beginning authors. One isn't necessarily born with the know-how to show and not tell.
That comment hurt me because I really liked this teacher and had always respected her judgment. My own mother told me once that I'd never sell a book because I didn't put enough sex in my stories (strange thing for a mother to say, now that I think of it).

Looking back, I wonder if I took this teacher's and my mother's criticisim too literally. Perhaps my mother spoke in the heat of the moment. Perhaps my high school teacher had a bad day.

I've been wanting to leave some passages from my current project on Writer's Notebook, but it is a novel and I don't really know what to put down. I'll think of something and let you all have at me.

I do have my first novel on a sight called Epubs. If anyone is interested in finding out more about it, they can click the link I have beside my E-mail address. Yesterday when I posted the address where my novel is to be found, I made a mistake. Try it again. I think I have it right this time.
If anyone does visit the sight, take the time to check out the rest of Epubs. All my critiquing buddies have books available there too. There is also an e-zine, an interview with a Harlequin editor, and interesting links. Please be patient, the site is new and isn't all that my friend Nicke has plannned it to be.

Susan Wed Sep 24 13:33:45 PDT 1997

I have also used writing as a way to deal with anger, grief, and frustration. When a friend of mine suffered what I felt was an injustice, I took the anger I felt towards the situation and channeled it into a short science fiction story. The main character in my story was also the victim of an injustice, but unlike reality he was able to obtain justice. It made me feel considerably better and I think I wrote a pretty good story in the process because I had dealt with those feelings constructively. The nice thing about writing fiction is that you have control over what is happening. We don't have that kind of control in real life.

I was also teased and taunted as a child. I've always been short (4'10") and that made me an easy target for bullies. I'm also shy and somewhat intellectual. My protagonists tend to be the downtrodden, the shy, the bookish types, like I was and it's fun to make them triumph over the villains, who invariably underestimate them. That's another thing I like about writing fiction. The nice guys can finishe first.

TaiMing Wed Sep 24 13:04:58 PDT 1997

Jack...this page is the best thing that's happened to me in a long time. I love the ability to submit and be critiqued. I haven't taken the option to critique yet, but will soon. But that brings me to my opinion of the writers group of which I was once a member.
I found that most of the participants really enjoyed reading or sharing ideas of their own, but when it came to giving a critique of another's work, they were hesitant and tongue tied. I don't think that's the case here with the notebook and workbook. I have seen hardly anything but decent critiques, although not many critiques at all. Mostly postings. And the point is....exactly that.
I think this forum is excellent and the writers involved truly gifted. I am lucky in that, when my work does get critiqued (and it will!!!), I will respect the ones doing the job. And I will listen....I think that feeling is invaluable. I don't feel put-upon here, just supported - even with expected negative comments. I thank you heartily for all the work you put into this page. It makes me very happy to meet all of you....
Goodweed and Kae....I too (surprise!!!) was the butt of many jokes, etc....too square, too smart, too whatever...and a rotten childhood...and crappy creative writing teachers, etc. Nevertheless, as weed said, isn't that one of the major reasons we were (and still are) writers? When I reviewed the stuff my teachers critiqued, I found they were pretty accurate. Even though, at the time, it hurt like hell. It took me years to even give any of my work to anyone else (including my longlifetime friends) to read. Maybe ego just has to be left behind. Along with the old ideas, plots, etc. that just didn't work. As with all of us, I can't even imagine to estimate the "starts" of books I have in handwritten storage. Four to five chapters each...and then neglected. Some of them make me laugh out loud, they were so lame.
As far as needing published writers onboard, is it necessary? I think it would be nice to have a group with a compliment of various writers in various stages of publication or "working on it". Usually, our end goal is to be published (except for that rare few), and I think it would be helpful for us to be able to seek assistance all the way along the line to that goal from fellow conspirators. One step up and all that...
I just hope this forum is always here and always changing. It's the ONLY way to grow...


To address

TB Wed Sep 24 12:24:36 PDT 1997

Sorry about the double post!

Toby Buckell Wed Sep 24 12:22:13 PDT 1997

Wow this week's topic is a zinger!

Kae- I feel with you and for you about the attack. My entire personal desire and drive to be a writer was sparked and realized by an incident when I was in ninth grade. Previous to that I had been fooling around, writing on the side as something to do when the class got way too boring, and I had finished reading the novel in my book-bag. The English teacher had assigned a Halloween story to be written and read to the class. I wrote a thirty page sci-fi horror story about a haunted star-ship (amutuerish, but even now I still like it), after listening to all the other stories my peers wrote (...then the man with the bloody knife came through my window and stabbed my cat, and then I woke up, and it was all a dream!), I read mine. I got about half way through when the teacher said to "quit, you're wasting my time!". That was a cataylst. Been writing ever since. One day a certain teacher is going to recieve a novel, with a nasty note attached. (But isn't the only thing driving me. I would have become what I am sooner or later anyway.) Sorry about the ramble.

Writer's groups. Aaargh. There was one I attended once, for a while. Frustrating, to say the least. At first I was excited, until the one fellow to the left of me started batting the air and whispering to someone I sure as hell couldn't see. He wore crystals all over, (I mean he was a walking crystal bracelet), and when he read his stuff, it was existensial-sic (a great deal of it extremely un-original), and dealt with how the crystals stored his soul energy. Okaaaaay. The other people were extremely pretentious and irratating, they tended to write lots of DEEP essays on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything else. Like Jack said, a lot of them were posers, and talked more about what they were going to do than actually did it. I started to realize that my time would be better spent reading and picking apart more good books than sitting there. (I read a sci-fi poem once, and they spent fourty minutes debating WHY I used a laser gun in line four instead of a real gun, ignoring my protests that it was just a sci-fi poem.) I jetted fter a month.

As far as writer's group, this is the only link I have to other writers. Haven't ever met or seriously talked (in person) to other writers. It's lonely out here.

TaeMing- Thanks!

Toby Buckell Wed Sep 24 12:22:06 PDT 1997

Wow this week's topic is a zinger!

Kae- I feel with you and for you about the attack. My entire personal desire and drive to be a writer was sparked and realized by an incident when I was in ninth grade. Previous to that I had been fooling around, writing on the side as something to do when the class got way too boring, and I had finished reading the novel in my book-bag. The English teacher had assigned a Halloween story to be written and read to the class. I wrote a thirty page sci-fi horror story about a haunted star-ship (amutuerish, but even now I still like it), after listening to all the other stories my peers wrote (...then the man with the bloody knife came through my window and stabbed my cat, and then I woke up, and it was all a dream!), I read mine. I got about half way through when the teacher said to "quit, you're wasting my time!". That was a cataylst. Been writing ever since. One day a certain teacher is going to recieve a novel, with a nasty note attached. (But isn't the only thing driving me. I would have become what I am sooner or later anyway.) Sorry about the ramble.

Writer's groups. Aaargh. There was one I attended once, for a while. Frustrating, to say the least. At first I was excited, until the one fellow to the left of me started batting the air and whispering to someone I sure as hell couldn't see. He wore crystals all over, (I mean he was a walking crystal bracelet), and when he read his stuff, it was existensial-sic (a great deal of it extremely un-original), and dealt with how the crystals stored his soul energy. Okaaaaay. The other people were extremely pretentious and irratating, they tended to write lots of DEEP essays on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything else. Like Jack said, a lot of them were posers, and talked more about what they were going to do than actually did it. I started to realize that my time would be better spent reading and picking apart more good books than sitting there. (I read a sci-fi poem once, and they spent fourty minutes debating WHY I used a laser gun in line four instead of a real gun, ignoring my protests that it was just a sci-fi poem.) I jetted fter a month.

As far as writer's group, this is the only link I have to other writers. Haven't ever met or seriously talked (in person) to other writers. It's lonely out here.

TaeMing- Thanks!

Goodweed of the North Wed Sep 24 10:04:29 PDT 1997

Hi Kae:
I need to throw my two cents into the fray. I don't
believe it is always possible to "get over it". I still
remember persons from 2nd grade who made my life miserable.
I remember wome of the abuses heaped upon me by my peers
with great detail. I remember the faces, the names, the
fear, the anger. I can't forget those things. I can,
however make those memories into positive prods that help
me to control my own actions so as to never hurt others.
My own father-in-Law told me it would be a cold day in
hell before I ever sold a book. I was very insulted. He
really has no clue about my talents and abilities. He
definately had no right to tell me that. He'd never read
anything I'd ever written.
He is one of the main reasons I will be published. No
one tells me I can't do something that I know I am capable
of. I was ridiculed too much as a child who was physically
two to three years behind my peers in size.
Another problem with carying anger is that the person you
are angry with may have change, matured over time. There is
certainly no garuntee that this is so, but you never know.
You have far to much talent to let anyone stop you from
writing. Remember, I have some of your work. Though I am
no professional critic, I have read work by some of the
best, and at least according to the writing professors at my
almamater, I know how to write.
I have to agree with Jack's advice. There is wome wisdom
in what he says. Don't get mad. Don't let anger get in
your way. Instead, remember: The best revenge is success.
Your story is timely. Your tale-tellin' skills are
exceptional. In addition, except for myself
(tongue-in-cheek), you're the best writer I know.

Phil: I've yet to read any of your work so I have to accept
that it is good stuff on faith.

We all need to be able to accept a bit of critique. We
must all respect the sensitivities of others. We don't
know their situation. I choose not to use vulgarity in my
spoken/written vocabulary. I choose to try and steer
conversations away from abusive language. It's my nature.
However, I have know right to force my opinions on others
and allow others their freedom.

Take care everyone.

Seeeya: Goodweed of the North

Deb Borys Wed Sep 24 06:16:13 PDT 1997

Oops, forgot my name again, that's me with the AOL info.


Wed Sep 24 06:12:03 PDT 1997


If you have access to America On Line, they have a regularly scheduled real time chat for children's writers. I've never visited, since that's not my area, but the AOL chats I do go to are always helpful. I believe there are other children's writers resources (bulletin boards, etc.) but I'm not familiar with them.

What I do is use a local internet provider which gives me unlimited access to the web for $20/month (that way I can use Netscape Navigator for browsing places like the Writer's Notebook) and then I have an AOL account that gives me unlimited access to it for $9.95/month
-- this way I find a lot of the problems people complain about regarding AOL (i.e. busy signals whent hey dial, getting bumped frequently, et. al.) don't seem to apply to me for the most part.

Anyway, it's just an idea. I suppose you're probably in Australia or somewhere and can't do this anyway, but at least I tried to be helpful.


Jack Beslanwitch Wed Sep 24 00:02:34 PDT 1997


Kae: Or you could use the anger and the source of your anger. Think of how you could use it in a story. Picture the character you create whole cloth out of that pompous professor and see what kind of grief you can get him into. And out of and into it. All the while, bringing in a heroe or heroine who can extricate him or not as the case may be. A strange alien generated disease that altered DNA and popped spare sexual organs of both genders on odd portions of...hmmm....maybe not. ;-) Waste not, want not. It is never nice to be defamed, but figure out how to make it work for you and not against you. Take care.

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Sep 23 23:48:38 PDT 1997

Couple of comments about my own experience with writers groups. Partly, Writers Cramp proved serendipitous since so many of the writers had already been through Clarion West. For those who are unaware of this, it is a bootcamp of sorts for science fiction and fantasy writers with an emphasis on short fiction. The whole point is publication, not 'literaaaaature'. Did I spell that right? Anyway, the process is simple enough. The person being reviewed is silent except when asked a direct yes or no question as each reviewer criticques words on paper and not people. The process goes around until the writer gets his turn to clarify, justify, agree or ask for assistance in different areas. About our biggest failing as reviewers is trying to utterly rewrite the stories in question, but never never make comments about the person in question. We tell how the plot might be tweaked, or a character here does not ring true on his motivation or why is the Earth orbiting in the opposite direction than it should. Was this intentional? Also, our group is focused on science fiction and fantasy. Attempts at doing poetry and mainstream have proved less effective and we caution others coming in on this. We're especially not effective at the type of things that would delight a college English literature professor. Or, perhaps, I am wrong. It depends on which professor you're taling about.

Oh, I added a slightly different background. Hope people find it OK. I mainly wanted to provide a little indentation or borders for the posts. Take care all and glad this particular subject sparked such an interest.

Ben Woestenburg Tue Sep 23 21:31:13 PDT 1997

Hello there.

Nice touch on the border there Jack. It's a good thing I'm in touch with my feminime side.

I wish I could say that I've been involved with a writer's group, but alas, I have not. However, since being in and out of this page, I've wondered where they all are out here. I've wondered about trying to get one started, but I don't know if I'd want to commit myself to such an undertaking. I think this page definitely qualifies as a writing group, and probably the best one could hope for in this day and age. Sure, it would be nice to sit around and sip back a couple of lattes -- though I'd prefer a beer, or maybe some of that home-made wine the wife just bottled last night. But I can feel comfortable here all the same. I think this is the group of the future. There's no need to talk to people face to face, when you can talk to people a continent or two away. I'll miss the face to face atmosphere, but as a writer I'm alone most of the time anyway. So what's the difference? You can get to know a person pretty good just using your words. It's a basic for communicating anyway. You can have on-line chat rooms, and e-mail gatherings; the world's wide open.
I'm pretty comfortable with this format now, I don't know if I want to change.


Elizabeth Tue Sep 23 20:18:53 PDT 1997

Hi, I am just looking for a regularly visited chat room discussing chilren's writing. The two mile cafe is never open...any suggestions?

Susan Tue Sep 23 19:28:34 PDT 1997

I don't have much experience with face to face writing groups. There is or was, a writing group at the university I attend, but I've always been too shy to go to their meetings. I am part of a writer's group on the Internet. It's devoted to the writing of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mysteries. I very much enjoy being part of this group. We have a couple of chat sessions a week and I did submit a story for criticism. The critiques of my story were all very tactful and informative. But they were honest too. I learned a lot from those critiques. If one is sensitive to the feelings of others one can give honest criticism. I don't think it's that difficult to be tactful. I have little use for writing teachers or editors who rip a story to shreds without regard for the feelings of others. If I want abuse I can get it elsewhere. I have little experience critiquing fiction, but I have critiqued research papers and some have been pretty bad. Criticism should be honest but not insulting or degrading. It is supposed to help the writer, not tear him or her apart.

Well, I've lectured enough for today. I haven't done any writing this week because I've been sick. Bronchitis just doesn't inspire creativity in me. Hopefully in a few days I'll feel up to writing again. Hope everyone is having a good week.

Philip Tue Sep 23 17:34:04 PDT 1997


With regard to the topic of writing groups, we will all know it is commonplace for people to be drawn together by shared interests. Writers' groups are no different but they are seen to be more romantic and dashing than most. As found in other groups, they are made up of strongly motivated individuals in need of endorsement for their hobby/work, they are (we are) isolated artists struggling for stimulation or motivation to carry on regardless of complications or numerous obstacles that always seem to present themselves. Social psychology - group dynamics - apply as they would in the formation of any group. Unwanted or unacceptable behaviour is soon modified by any group's members reactions. Sharing is paramount: the level of expertise of writers in the group is important as is the ability and willingness to assist others. A writers group can only be as useful as its contributing members make it.

At the last national writers conference I attended, a full-on four day event, an official resolution was passed that experienced, published authors attending the conference were neglected, that the conference was unfairly created entirely for, and geared toward, unpublished writers.

Writers' groups harbour more posers (people who aren't really writers at all but want to live the lie) than you will find anywhere except maybe among the paint-spattered attendees of fine art exhibitions. A lot of people believe because they can physical place words in some sort of order on page that automatically makes them writers - to hell with attention to grammar, spelling, syntax: language: writing. Bob Hanford bravely touched on this in an earlier posting in this group and was dumped on.

The face-to-face writers' group I attended until its recent demise included published authors only - two of which are writers of international best sellers - and admission to this exclusive group was by invitation. I was the youngest and least published in this group - I learned so much. I took it upon myself to freely pass on what I was learning along the way to other groups, including this one.

Most writers don't handle criticism well. To be a good editor is to be 'called' - as to the priesthood - or else you need to be a masochist. It has been my experience that a lot of people are reluctant to take advice. Some writers need to be jolted into or out of a particular line of thought and the main tool we use to do that is language (or physical violence or torture). So if someone uses words like boring shit, bullshit or horseshit they may have it found it difficult to reach that person using milder more subtle language. This approach might motivate more hard-headed individuals enough so they apply themselves in a way that they never had previously just to get even.

KAE: I agree with Bob. His advice is sound. Your sarcastic attitude aimed at him doesn't elevate you in any way. Brush that thing off your shoulder, deal with and validate your anger and get over it. It is obvious some people need to be told, want to be told, crave to be told, again and again, but when the bloody hell will they learn to listen? And do you really believe you are 'too expressive' for this group?

I'm so misunderstood.

In those around me I am forced to recognise myself: attention seeking, over achieving, angst ridden, involved in never-ending underclass heroic struggles, puffed-up, non-conformist, with shoulders bearing chips aplenty. You want to know to what I apply all this fuel? I write books. Is there a topic in this somewhere Jack?

I'd like to think further about the other parts to this week's topic.

Back soon - Philip.

TaiMing Tue Sep 23 13:11:14 PDT 1997

Tony B....I really enjoyed your story. Succinct, and good characterization. Very clever...And you weave the six=-fingered man in well. Got me curious.... Post again soon.

Kae Tue Sep 23 12:57:46 PDT 1997

Rhoda: I appreciate your trying to make me feel better, but any sentence that contains the word "horseshit" is not a compliment. If you heard someone say, "You're pretty, for a fat chick" would you think that was a compliment?

But thanks for the commenting--everything else was right on. I think your rule of not saying something that would hurt you were you to receive it is a rule to live by.

Bob H: Gee, thanks, if you hadn't told me that I need to let it go, it never would have occured to me. Once again, I see that I need to be shamed for being too expressive. One might even call my little outburst "horseshit."

TaiMing Tue Sep 23 12:42:09 PDT 1997

Bob Hanford....thanks guy....I had thought I finally had it figured out, but obviously I was wrong again. I will definitely now post to the Workbook, and not the Notebook. Polite is nice, but not helpful...Thanks for being honest and thereby helping....

Joan Tue Sep 23 12:02:49 PDT 1997

Hi all--Just a quick question that I hope someone will have an answer for. (By the way, I'm writing this on my lunch hour from my WORK Internet system, so if anything besides "" shows up, please don't e-mail me there. is my home E-mail address, and I doubt the person who farms out the E-mails at work would appreciate receiving mail for me. As you can see--I'm still green at this Internet stuff.)

Anyway---does anyone know about McMillan & Co. publishers? I have a friend who may publish with them, and she asked me to find out. Anyone know?

More later---and as always, thanks!


Rhoda Fort barbarian.htm Tue Sep 23 11:49:11 PDT 1997


In college you got sincerely complimented on your writing and sadly didn't realize it. You must be a very good writer, Kae. Have you asked yourself how many of those professors ever published anything the general reading public ever wanted to read? Looking back to some of my college experiences, I think that If some of the professors I had complemented my writing, I would seriously consider giving the activity up for something I could do better.

When I was in college, academians had a tendency to be brutal and very arrogant. Fourteen years later, I think they are even worse.

I believe the best rule for critiques is the golden rule. Never rend a critisism that would hurt you were you to get it. Don't flatter, don't lie, but "speak the truth in love."

Do not enter into a critique group with just anyone. Critiquing should be done with people who share a common committment to their craft. It helps if you can critique with more experienced and published individuals. Try to avoid people who have no desire to know the truth, but who only want a compliment (many such people exist). Make sure that all members are sympathetic to the plight of the beginning writer and that all members have come with the desire to learn and to improve.

Writer's groups are a touchy subject with me too. Many in my area have come and gone. The ones that still exist are hanging on by a thread. The biggest problem that I've seen is that there are many amaturish authors. They do what they do as a hobby (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). Not only do these people lack a committment with their writing, but they do not commit readily to an organization devoted to writing.

A couple of years ago at a writing group I was attending, there was a seminar featuring an Albuquerque agent. She told the group how important it was to appear professional. She talked about how to market their work, and then talked about the importance of submitting a polished manuscript (pretty basic stuff). She also gave a realisitic picture about how tight the writing market is. Some people present at this seminar walked out cursing the agent under their breaths. They didn't like what she had to say. But she was right. The information she gave was accurate and realistic. I know, because I have been trying to market my work for almost a year. Too many people have a romantically idealistic view of the writing profession. I once did. Gone are the days of John Boy Walton. Gone are the days when an emerging author has his editor waiting with baited breath for his next great project. People don't want their illusions tampered with.

In large cities of 100,000 or more, it is probably easy to find at least half a dozen people wishing to be part of a critique group or a writers group. Our community in the four corners area is realitively small. There are no major colleges near by, and people who are artistic generally do sculpture, painting, or jewelry. Many here are blue collar and agricultural types.

I have three friends I get together with on occassion. We brainstorm, share market information and do some critiquing. I also go to writer's conferences whenever I can. The writer's conferences provide the instruction, the networking, and the infusion of fresh ideas that I cannot find locally.

Bob Hanford Tue Sep 23 11:39:41 PDT 1997

Jack, you do come up with some tough ones. Certainly respect would have to come first among all the members. Remember when the large group of famous singers got together to do the song "We Are The World?" Quincy Jones had pasted a sign over the entrance door saying, "Please leave your egos here." That would have to happen. Praise first, criticize second should be one of the rules. Tough question.
Kae: Now you got the anger out. Time to let it go.
TaiMing: Everyone has been too polite to say you should be posting your pieces on the Workbook instead of the Notebook.

Kae Tue Sep 23 08:11:54 PDT 1997

Oh BOY am I familiar with this topic. I come to you pushing a wheelbarrow full of sour grapes. I am one of the people whose writing has been so seriously BASHED by "critiquers" that (at the time) I swore I'd never write again. I don't know if anyone remembers, but my very first post included something about my experiences as a Creative Writing Major in college. I went there with stars in my eyes, thinking that FINALLY I was getting to do something I really wanted to do-I was finally going get to work, learn, and excel at the one thing I really love, writing. Four years later I was turned loose with a worthless Bachelor's Degree (don't bother telling me that no degree is worthless. My mom already let me know.) and self-esteem so low that I felt like the turd in the academic punchbowl. I was (am) appalled at the mean-spirited venom with which the so-called "professionals" at school attacked my writing. I wrote some rather graphic stories about blue-collar life, masochist relationships, and emotional brutality, and man, did they hate it. The prof I had for CW told me that my writing was "sharp and realistic," but my subject matter was "horseshit." (Which became the name of my thesis. "Horseshit," by kbrown. Rather immature, I know, but hey, I was proving a point.) Now I CAN handle criticism if it has to do with the actual writing. Even things like "this section is pretty pretentious" wouldn't bother me. But when people start using words like "horseshit," then they've crossed the line between critique and assault. There is no reason to be ugly. What does the subject matter have to do with the writing? I might not LIKE American Psycho by Bret Ellis (my favorite example, it would seem), but I'd never attack the man's WRITING becuz the SUBJECT turned me off. It is possible to critique without being insulting, and it's even possible to let the writer know you don't LIKE the story without being cruel. The way to critique without injuring another's ego: don't get personal, and don't shame yourself by showing disrespect.

Last April, partly due to this page and everyone's support, I let the ideas come back and started writing them down. It's the same story I was writing in college, and a couple of you have read parts of it. No one, so far, has called it "horseshit." When it's published, the Creative Writing Department at University of Michigan (except for Prof Charles Baxter) can kiss my brutal, sensational, gratuitous, profanity-spewing ass. Then they'll probably say, "we taught her everything she knows!"

Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but it is. I just wanted to let you know how much damage can be done when critiquers turn into REVIEWERS.

Bill Tue Sep 23 05:21:44 PDT 1997

1.) Who needs a writers group when we have the PERFECT notebook?

2.) Who put the pink panties around the notebook?

TaiMing Tue Sep 23 00:37:52 PDT 1997

Here's the second in the series....Please give me your comments....Goodweed...Thanks for your appreciation....I hope you like this one too....These are the structure for my scifi novel that my roommate and I are writing.....Actually I'm doing the writing, and he's doing the weaponry....

The Vagabond of Notown

It was easy to walk into the grayness
easier still to seek directions,
from those without direction,
who languished along the pathways
to my destination.

In the muddy distance,
I could hear the singing of a child
and understood the warm, sweetened
commands of the mother,
and it was easy to be moved.

It was a summer beyond my last visit to Notown,
and I was unexpected and too much aware.

The squared lights
from the twilight-shadowed hovels
shown through the gathering fog
as a candle in a awindow left burning
and I felt strangely welcomed.

Two familiar memories surrounded me,
hanging on my heels like a dark past,
chanting a cadence,
allowing no retreat.

I had come to find her.

After the running,
after the disguises disappeared
and the words hung in the balance
like mis-matched boots upon the floor,
and now
I had come to find her,
feeling my actions
giving due credence to my soft-whispered name...
the Vagabond of Notown.

I had lived through the winter -
become the winter -
and grew tired of the cold,
the barren whiteness,
and became the spring.

And when I became the spring,
my soul cried for her.

I found myself stepping gingerly
onto the old roads of Notown -
speaking to the ghosts
everpresent in our old haunts,
and listening to their whispers
and watching the shadows of their words
when I told them
I had come to find her.

I sought salvation from the unsaved,
begged favors from the unfavored,
and borrowed a balm from the unhealed
to apply to my waning heart.

Without warning, without mercy
without a breeze to betray a movement,
she had come to find me
asking answers of the afflicted,
seeking visions from the blind,
wishing shelter from the wame winter,
when the new season's warmth found her heart.

It was easy to walk with her into the grayness -
easier still to seek directions,
from those without direction,
who languished along the pathways
to our destination.

Yet the easiest of all -
the destiny we had both sought -
was that we had come to find
each other.

Well...???? what do you think guys?

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Sep 22 22:30:46 PDT 1997

      OK, all, I have added a new topic for potential discussion. What are the elements that go together to make a good or great writers group. How do you best structure the way people criticque. How big does a writers group have to become before it becomes ineffective. How important is it to have published writers in the group? Most important, how do you find a good writers group in your area.

      In my own case, we did not know of a good group as such, so we created our own. Actually, at a panel at a science fiction convention on Writers Group, the speaker challenged us to create one of our own from the audience. My own writers group is called Writers Cramp Although I am taking a hiatus from them in the course of writing my own technical non fiction book, I found them very useful. We have been going for a number of years in West Seattle, have a Writers of the Future winner, several graduates of Clarion West and all in all a good group that was fashioned from the ground up. There are a number of others in this immediate area. At any rate, explore this topic or come up with another on your own. Also, feel free to leave postings on the Workbook and criticque them here. We are a writers group, too.

toby b Mon Sep 22 17:42:02 PDT 1997

Personal life is wild right now, with soccer (I want playing time coach!) and socializing. With my computer moniter down that's three hours extra a night of hanging out!)

TaiMing- Cool.

Kay- Welcome to the club!

I just recently looked over the size of the posting I had in the notebook area and got scared. What I've decided to do is now post the novel sections through E-Mail to anyone who's interested (or wishes to critique).

Many thanks to Jack B., Joan Rhodda, Rosemary, and Bill Whitney for criticism. I am forging on ahead with this one, hoping for about 1500 words a week. (That's because it's my computer-lab project, I still write a fair amount [200-1000 per night] on my computer back in the room, when I get a new moniter that is!)

goodweed of the north Mon Sep 22 09:44:19 PDT 1997

How could a poet, or for that matter, any well versed
reader, not enjoy the poem you have gracefully submitted.
The poem was great. I'm envious. I have been known to
jot down a line or two of verse myself. But nothing quite
so ethereal. I'll send you some of my favorites via e-mail.
Thanks for the good read.

Kae: write me. Miss you're wit and charm, rough as it may
seem to others. You know you're my best freind other than
my wife and kids.

TaiMing Sun Sep 21 20:54:51 PDT 1997

OK guys....finally got on to get some time to submit....Chatroom attention....(and give me feedback, please....)


I stand naked, discovered,
revealed by the unknowing words -
such poignant messengers in their soft silken clothes -
who, without thought for consequence, revealed me
and splayed me to the wind.

Does my self, my essence, my odor
carry so far?
Shall my own light lift with the current
during my own brief forays
into that shadowland of fables and lies

into the pulsing, short-breaths of Notown?

And, will the recognition of my own lies
be spoken aloud?
Or will it be whispered
among those who whisper it all
and wait anxiously for those who would
stop in the twilight,
and listen?

Exposed...I await my own hearing.

Yet, the jury of Notown's own chosen,
the righteous and right-thinking,
the humble and the helpless,
the obscure and obtuse,
the dreamers and dreamt-of
should breathe with full lungs,
and then
await their turn.

So...gang...first of a series coming your way..Critique?

Bill Sun Sep 21 17:00:37 PDT 1997

Welcome. If you didn't have all those FUN little problems, you wouldn't be a writer.

Bob Hanford Sun Sep 21 16:49:07 PDT 1997

Kay: You sound like a perfectly normal writer to me. Welcome.
Ben: Hello, guy. Miss you.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Sep 21 01:18:13 PDT 1997

Kay: Welcome!!!! :-) Sounds like you have the appropriate strain of pure cussedness and tenacity that is required for the writer's journey. Sort of like the Hero's journey, I think. At any rate, leave something in the Workbook and we'll dissect with relish. Join in the discussion here and be welcome.

Ben Woestenburg Sat Sep 20 22:12:45 PDT 1997

Hello from me, and how are we doing tonight?

I wish I could say that I've been busy writing a lot this week, but things at my end are kind of tosy turvy. My mother-in-law is staying with us for a month or so, even though I know my wife wishes she could stay with us a lot longer -- like forever! -- but it's kind of thrown a twist into my routine. No big deal though. I wish I could get back here more than I do.

Plotting. I love it actually. I find my plots in the strangest places. The plot for my book come right out of the pages of Tacitus, an ancient Roman writer, and the Acts of the Apostles of all things. The two books cover the same period in history, and even overlap in some places. It's nothing to add a few ficticious characters to a story line that seems to leap out at me. I see a name, an incident, and I see a chapter evolve. I came across the name Asiaticus, and made a complete history for him, part fiction, partly researched. I gave him a daughter, his late brother's child, had him arrested, introduced him to another character in prison, had that man freed, tied him to the daughter, and sent them both off the Jerusalem in search of a hidden fortune I call the Hydra Fund. I come across other names, and throw them into the story. Then I go to the Bible and see what happened when, mix everything up again, and voila! A story so big, and so engrossing, I had to divide it into three books just to fit it all in.

The worst part is that now that I've got this one all figured out, I've come across another name that really intrigues me. Elagabalus, which in turn led me to another name: Caracalla. Emperors of Rome around 200-222 A.D. Then I discover that there was an anti-pope in Rome at the same time, a schism in the church, and thought, hey, there's more here than meets the eye. So I dig a little deeper and come up with a name, Eutychianus Comazon. He came to Rome in 194 A.D. just when the Praetorians are putting the Emprie up for auction, and he ends up staying there right up until the end. So how do I tie it all together? I'm thinking I have to have a person who is a friend of Comazon, a doctor probably, who saves the young emepror Elagabalus's life, but his family have become Christians in Rome, unbeknownst to him -- I just put that in because I like that word.

So you see, plots are out there in everything we read. That's why I like history. The plots are all ready there, all you have to do is put them together on paper. You should see what I want to do with Atilla the Hun. I'll bet you guys didn't know he was once a hostage in Rome when he was younger? So that means he wasn't as much the barbarian everyone thinks he was. That means he spoke Latin, and had an eja-ka-shun. Now there's a plotline just waiting to leap out at me.

But I have to agree with everyone when they say the plot isn't as important as the characters involved in the story itself. If you don't have memorable characters and flesh them out so that they're believable, how can you think your plot will make any bit of difference? I don't think my first storyline would have been possible if I didn't have good fictional characters. The research has to be meticulously followed. Why do all that research if you're not going to use it. It creates atmosphere, and tension. If you want to write about a crucifxion, you better know why the person was crucufied, as well as who qualified for it. (Roman citizens could only be beheaded.) I like plotting, and I like characters that speak a lot. You can move the plot a lot quicker with a good two or three pages of dialogue than you can trying to tell the reader what you're trying to say, and you won't bore him/her.

Finally, the last point: I like to write about what interests me. I used to try and write stories I thought would sell because that's what was out there. But they weren't as interesting to me. I don't know how many pages and years I wasted doing that. I finally settled down to write a story that would entertain ME. If you don't like the story yourself, how do you expect anyone to like it? Well, that's it. History sells just as good as Romance and sci-fi, espionage and mysteries. There's a market out there for everything. There's even a market out there for large, grandiose, sweeping epics, like mine!

It's easy to plot, you just have to know what you're looking for -- or at!


KayCurry Sat Sep 20 11:04:33 PDT 1997

Help, please! I've fallen into a novel (or three) and I can't get out! My garden has gone to ruin, my husband and I scarcely ever speak, my characters do things that don't make sense until three chapters on, it's full of sex and violence and I'm not, the most interesting people in it (them) are gay and I'm a straight white woman, albeit I do live in San Francisco, I can't let anyone I know read it because they'd look at me funny and always after mutter under their breaths when I turn my back. Oh hurry or I may be dead! Not really, I have to stay alive to see how things turn out. Seriously. I joined a gym and work out three times a week because I really do not want to leave my people in limbo by dying on them. I'll leave a snippet in the workbook if I can figure out how - on top of everything else I'm a tyro on the web.....

Rosemary Fri Sep 19 14:22:46 PDT 1997

Just a quick note to the Goodweed person. I tried the suggested addresses and the first two looked very interesting. I bookmarked them for when I have more time. The third one scared me half to death. I don't know exactly what is is, (I don't read Spanish. Even though I live in San Antonio, I grew up in southen Georgia. We didn't have much use for Spanish there.) I'll probably get my courage back up in a couple of days and try it again. Thanks for the wake up jolt.

Fri Sep 19 14:22:43 PDT 1997

Goodweed of the North Thu Sep 18 19:33:00 PDT 1997

Hi all: I checked out the site given us by Philip. Looks intense. It also has good links. Another promising site
is http// Another good link is You might also look at

Philip, thanks.

Kae and Bill, Getting real close. Another week till potential completion. Been a long road. Just starting the sale portion now. Lotsa work ahead. Keep at your writing.

Bill, I should soon have sufficient time to help with the last chapter you sent. Sorry its taken so long.

I'm posting my query for your review in writer's workbook. I have to heavily thank one member of our group (I omit his name because he is extremely busy and doesn't need to be asked to review anyones article. He voluntarily helped me without solicitation.) for his gacious assistance and tutorial. I borrowed from the re-write he sent me but changed it a bit, (it's both my nature and I need to learn to do this right) to fit the particualr requirements of the query guidelines set forth by one agency. Tear it up. I know its a lot closer now to being right than before.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Goodweed of the North Wed Sep 17 22:46:30 PDT 1997

The main plot of a story is the genral lay of the land, so to speak. That is, the plot is the overall problem, be it romantic, adventure, discovery, etc. For instance, in the incredible Asimov series, "Foundation Trilogy", the plot concerns the manipulation of society through the use of statistical macro models. A great collapse of society is correctly predicted through statistical analysis and society is gently pushed toward its former greatness by the genius of one man. The sub plots are used to create tension and force the characters in the story to think and act, which makes them come alive. Every chapter of every book in the story works to succesfuly complete the main plot.
For myself, I write a skeletal outline of the plot. I them flesh out the outline with descriptions of the world and characrters, and create sub plots to challenge the characters. Every sub-plot must work toward the realization of the main plot in some way.
All stories try to tell something. Just figure out what you are trying to tell. It may be good wins over evil. It may be that there are no absolutes. It may be that the world is a complex place. Whatever it is, the charecters and action sequences are tools used to convey the message.
Play with them. Extrapolate new ideas from old themes. Become your characters. Most importantly, have fun with your creation. Your book is your world. You are its master.

Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Philip Wed Sep 17 19:39:08 PDT 1997


I just received a new link for serious writers in this months issue of Inklings, some might find it interesting.

Back soon - Philip.

Toby Buckell Wed Sep 17 16:06:06 PDT 1997

Bill- Cemetaries have plots. That took a minute for me to get.

Debbie- Notecards, cool idea. I think I may start using a large sheet of paper for skeleton, and use notecards for subplots. That way you can re-arrange as needed. Fhanx!

For everyone who is sending me E-Mail concerning my 'little' project, thanks, I really really really really appreciate it.

Bye for now!

Bill Wed Sep 17 12:05:53 PDT 1997

I didn't see anyone wish you luck on your idea for a SF novel. So, GOOD LUCK.

I don't think you'll find any divorce that is so simple that you could say "big deal" so lightly. I have been through a divorce. It was fairly simple and my ex and I even went to the same attorney, but it still had it's problems. So, your character wants to get divorced. Why? Did she catch him having sex with another woman, or, God forbid, another man? Is it because her husband is a real jerk? Did she fall in love with someone else? If so, why? How? When? What does she feel about him and what brought about her decision to become free. As mentioned a few days ago in the notebook, people seem to like blood and guts and violence. With that in mind, do they fight? If so, does anyone get hurt physically, mentally. What about the bills and who gets what. Who pays what? Do they argue about those things? Of course, we all know that, in most cases, the guy gets the shaft and the gal gets the gold mine. (Like the song) Maybe she would get nothing and he would get it all? What about kids? Are they involved? How does it effect them. What is she going to do after her divorce? Are they separated first? Maybe you can talk to a few people who have gone through it and find out their stories. Anyway, I hope this helps.
About your question on making a scene interesting. I'll mention one way. I had a scene in my novel where my characters were walking along a narrow ledge, (remember Kae?), and one of them fell, grabbed by another. In a desperate attempt to save the girl from falling into the eternal darkness of the shaft in an underground cave, my male character held onto her. And on and on... The point being, it was an extremely tense situation. As it was, my wording was so humdrum that the scene didn't seem tense, or much out of the ordinary. Kae called my attention to it and I made many changes. The words that you use can make or break a scene. Use the words fitting to the real action. Hope this helps too. Instead of so and so said, did they shout?

There is something about plots that I didn't see mentioned, unless I missed it. A novel should have one main plot. For example, In my novel "Galactic Entanglements: The
fourth Galaxy" My main plot is the fact that an all out galactic war is in the making, but the characters don't know it at first. Now, I have broken that down with several "sub-plots"-- individual scenes and with their own problems, such as: Heather discovers who's stealing from a planet's inhabitants(a dragon did it!); Lisa discovers who's attempting to assassinate the Ambassador; Lisa, a part-android, falls in love: etc.. Many of these sub-plots intertwine and adds information to the main plot. Don't end a sub-plot abruptly, but start another that is on the upswing while the first winds down, etc.. That keeps your reader reading. Break the whole story, or plot, down into smaller sections and handle one thing at a time. I hope this makes sense, because 10 months ago, I didn't even have a clue as to what a plot was.

Sorry, I just couldn't stand to see an empty notebook...LOL

Yak! Yak! I'm out of here.

Nesser Wed Sep 17 11:43:18 PDT 1997

Have you ever wondered why people always say " Have you ever wondered"? and then they never find out the answer to their guestions? Boy that bugs me!

Debbie O. Wed Sep 17 08:53:17 PDT 1997

Hello all,

Jack: you archived before I could catch up!!:-)
Now how do I get to the archives?

Plotting: I love/hate it. I always have a problem with plotting. My system consists of outlining each chapter on an index card, and working from there. Sometimes I think my plots, or proposed plots are garbage. In fact, there are some days when I think all my writing is garbage. Just venting. Seriously, I think plot is important, and I like to read novels where I'm always wondering what could possibly happen next.

Maybe it's just my perception, but often I do not think that the plots I create are worth the space of a novel. However, when reading other writers' work, they don't seem to have much "action" going on, but the suspense is still there. Can anyone offer any observations/solutions? How do you make a seemingly simple scene hold enough interest for the reader. For example, my character wants to end her marriage. Big deal. How do I make this interesting enough for my reader.

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Sep 17 01:24:24 PDT 1997

As you might notice, I have archived the Notebook. I could not help myself, but to leave Bill's last comment about cemetaries and plots. Groan!!!! :-). Also, as some might notice as well, I have zipped the entries for the Notebook during 1996. It saved a considerable amount of space and resulted in a file 334 k in size which is more than half the size of the previous space. I'll most likely do the same to 1997 when we get to the end of December. Halcyon is understanding, but I do have finite space on the server, so zipping will mean that we can store the Notebook here for the next several years without difficulty.

Oh, and I have a couple of plots I might consider for sale as well ;-) and yes, very, very, very expensive. Just kidding. Take care everyone.

Bill Tue Sep 16 21:47:18 PDT 1997

Plot? Hmmm! How about, Russian space station gets cremated by US satellite. Gee, that almost happened. Get your plots anywhere. How about, worms retaliate against gardeners for digging up their homes. lol Cemeteries have plenty of plots. Did I type that?

Return to For Writers Only