Monday, October 17, 2016

Pretty, or Pretty Creepy?

If there's one thing this election season has reminded us, it's that everyone really does have their own opinion and way of looking at the very same thing.

Take a look at this photo of Squam Lake that I took recently at the NE-SCBWI Squam Lake Writer's Retreat. If you are like me, you see one of the most beautiful things ever - a dock, in the middle of a crisp, clear lake inviting you to jump in. Someone else might wonder what is under the dark water, just waiting for you to emerge from the creepy woods, ala the Shallows.

At the retreat, I was brave and submitted the first page of a middle-grade manuscript to be read and critiqued by a panel consisting of an agent and two editors. The first pages were read by one of the retreat coordinators and the panel raised their hands when they would likely stop reading the manuscript if they received it along with a query. I waited anxiously for my first page to be read and listened as many pages were taken down within seconds.

So how did I fare? It's hard to tell. Like the photo, there were different opinions. The agent and one editor raised their hands fairly soon, commenting that it was "too telly" and "gender-forced". I'm okay with these comments because I can adjust for the first one, and I think the second one is expected when you don't know that the manuscript is historical. But my page got read in its entirety, thanks to the other editor who liked the sinister, yet funny opening scene and said "You can't teach funny - this person (me!) has the chops."

I chose to leave the event feeling excited rather than depressed, because this exercise just reminded me that there is someone who will appreciate what I write, and what you write. Two editors can look at the same thing and have vastly different opinions. So remember, anything is possible. We are poised to have a woman in the White House, and Donald Trump actually ran for President this year. The entire country looked at the same documents, the same scandals, and everyone had wildly different opinions. I don't know what it means for the country, but it gives me hope in my writing!

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