Tag Archives: critique

Title Change and Revision

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Secret Wuksachi Swimmin' Hole

Secret Wuksachi Swimmin’ Hole

August already… the “golden rollin’ hills of California”

De Valle Regional Park, California

De Valle Regional Park, California

People have told me that my working title, Death of the Gecko, is confusing because it sounds like a story about the Southwest, which it is not. So, after brainstorming with a friend, I’ve adopted a new title – Fruit of the Devil. La Fruita del Diablo is what fresceros call the strawberries they harvest. What do you think? Does the new title work for a murder mystery about strawberries and pesticides?

I’ve been participating in an online group, Agent Query Connect, to refine my query letter. The newest critiques of my draft letter are beginning to suggest revisions that sound like the first draft, making me feel like the snake biting its tail. Maybe that means I’m getting close. I’ve begun compiling a list of possible agents, and trying to figure out what genre describes my story. Today, I think the genre “Upmarket Contemporary Women’s Fiction” fits best.

My biggest challenge at present, in revision, is cutting the length. It seems that no one wants to publish, buy or read fiction longer than 300 pages. I actually enjoy reading long books. How about you?

It’s already half way through August. As usual, summer in Santa Cruz has been foggy. We have gone long stretches where we haven’t seen the sun at all. The heat in the Central Valley interacts with the cold water evaporating over the ocean, creating a pump that pulls the fog on top of us.  By the end of July, the lack of summer sun was feeling so oppressive we had to get away.

Endangered Pacific Toad, Kings Canyon, California

Endangered Pacific Toad, Kings Canyon, California

We went to Del Valle Reservoir, in the East Bay near Livermore, with friends one day for glorious swimming and sun basking, and we went to our friend Jim’s cabin in Sequoia National Park a weekend in late July. Spent a day swimming in Hume Lake, and another day hopping from one exquisite High Sierra swimming hole to the next.

Friend Jim in Medicine Rock Hole, High Sierras

Friend Jim in Medicine Rock Hole, High Sierras

One of the best, a secret spot near Wuksachi Lodge. Closer to home, we made it to a couple of sunny swimming holes on the San Lorenzo River recently – one spot in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and another well known “secret” hole called the Garden of Eden. Check out this UTube video link. I bet you’ll like it. Ah, summer. swing

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Coming Out: Exultation and Sorrow

Yesterday I Came Out. Five of my very knowledgeable and astute friends accepted copies of the First Draft of The Death of the Gecko to read and critique. After writing “in the closet” for two and a half years, it was a very exhilarating and scary feeling to expose my work to other people.

Being a retired writing teacher, I provided my dear readers with a Rubric. Several readers were willing to work with a PDF version of the manuscript, and two of my readers requested hard copies. Emailing proved to be iffy for such a large file size, so I ended up putting the entire first draft of my novel up on the web as a downloadable PDF. Talk about feeling exposed! But now that it’s up there, I’m starting to think about just being open to letting anyone read the manuscript who wants to. For now, I’m not really advertising that it’s there. But it is out there! If you feel like taking a look, I’d love it! If you do download and read the manuscript, I would very much appreciate your comments!

What I am still really hoping for is that someone might visit my BLOG and make a comment. So far, no visitors… Hello? Anyone there?

Why Sorrow? A very shocking and tragic event occurred yesterday, the day of my “coming out”. One of the people who had agreed to review/critique my manuscript is my dear friend and writing mentor, Don Rothman.

Don was a Bay Area Writing Project teacher and mentor. He taught many teachers, including myself, how to teach writing. And Don is actually one of the spiritual Fathers of my novel. Here’s why: Right after I retired from teaching, I was harvesting grapes in the Santa Barbara hills at Condor’s Hope Ranch with Don, Sarah Rabkin, and other friends. While we picked grapes, we talked about Sarah’s outstanding online oral history project for UCSC on the organic farming movement. I mentioned that Farm Without Harm hadn’t been included in the stories. So, Don and Sarah encouraged me to write the story myself – the story of Farm without Harm and the parents and teachers in Watsonville who challenged conventional strawberry growers’ permits to fumigate near schools with methyl bromide. That conversation among the grape vines catalyzed the creation of my novel, The Death of the Gecko.

Don stayed in touch, with periodic encouragement, while I wrote. Yesterday, he was planning to come to my house to pick up a hard copy of the manuscript. He seemed genuinely excited about reading the novel. I was thrilled that he was willing to do a whole manuscript critique. The evening before last, he emailed me to make final arrangements for coming over the next day. Then, about an hour before he was due to arrive, I got a phone call from a tearful Robbie Gliessman of Condor’s Hope. She was calling from Don’s house, at the request of his wife, to tell me that Don had passed away in his sleep that night.

Shock. Sorrow. Don was in his 60’s. That seems too young. It’s always so hard to loose the good people. Don was an outstanding human being. So interested in Life, and in others, generous with his time and his wisdom. Brimming over with knowledge, insight, and good humor. Thank you, Don, for your friendship and mentorship. You are missed.

Such a loss takes the breath away. So hard to adjust to the fact that one so vital and present has suddenly vanished. Life is so precious and ephemeral. Every breath is sweet. What a gift to be a human being on Planet Earth, to be, as Kurt Vonnegut says, “standing up mud”, able to look around, see the sparkling water, smell the redwoods, hear the rain, touch someone you love … if only for a brief time. Such a gift. Thank you.

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The First Draft is Finished!

I’ve finished the first draft of The Death of the Gecko. The elation of finishing such a monumental task lasted only about an afternoon. Then the compulsion to revise and edit, polish and ready the manuscript for release set in! I’m back to rigorous daily work on the manuscript.

I started reading from the beginning several weeks ago, looking at words I wrote over two years ago. I am amazed at how tightly the whole story, with its multiple plot threads and points of view seems to hold together. I’m very eager for others to read it now, to see if it works.

If you’re interested in reading all or part of the story in draft and adding your response and critique, please please let me know! The more the story is vetted before release, the better it will be. Contact me!

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