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  1. #1
    martha shmokler
    Guest

    feedback

    hi everyone, this is the first time i've asked for feedback.
    thanks
    Martha


    PROLOGUE
    People are always curious about reading other people’s letters. My eyes were wide and my mouth turned into a smile when I looked at my daughter’s note about how she was afraid to ride the bus and seemed to trust Mr Bear. I had no clue that my daughter wrote the class worry bear. This made me want to read more of her letters.

    My daughter did not have an obvious disability. She was an A/B student, yet I felt she was having learning problems. I had to find a listener. I found the listener in my daughter’s third grade classroom.




    CHAPTER 1 DAUGHTERS ENTHUSED AND I’M AMUSED

    I am the mother of three daughters, Erin, Rachel and Michelle. They are considerate, kind and gentle girls. They are close like three mousekateers, shopping eating and giggling together.
    We visited both sets of grandparents and the girls always liked to hug them. The girls always asked their grandparents if they could bring them food or a drink. They were well behaved when we went out for dinners.

    The other set of grandparents lived in Florida. The girls always carried all towels and snacks to the beach. Swimming time at Granddaddy’s pool was a treat. The Shmokler divers and swimmers and ballet swimmers were always saying,
    “Look at me look at us, Mom, Dad, Granddaddy see us swim and act like a fountain” They said as they winked their eyes and spewed out the water from their mouths.

    Erin, my twelve year old, was a four pound premature baby. She was not expected to live. Her lungs were not strong when she was born. She was so small; she looked like a baby doll. She had to stay at Children’s Hospital until she was 8 pounds.

    By six months old, Erin’s eyes developed strabismus because she used a respirator at birth. She wore an eye patch and used glasses. She was determined to rip the glasses off her face. We constantly tried to keep them on her.
    She was very determined and literal when she was 2 yrs old. One night Grandpop Bernie asked Erin if she would like to have a bite of her good looking food. Erin bit him. He was so surprised. No one could reprimand her it was so cute.
    When four year old Erin was visiting with her first cousins overnite she did what she was told; but, at her own pace. My sister told me that she took Erin along with her two daughters to a fair. She told me it took forever for Erin to be dressed “just right”. Erin walked with her cousins at her pace. My sister’s family was a little annoyed at her slow pace.

    On July 1,1986, my second daughter Rachel was born prematurely. At birth Rachel was stronger then Erin.
    At 4am, the phone rang in my hospital room in Shady Grove, Maryland. It was
    four year old Erin. Erin and I exchanged greetings. I was surprised asking her how she knew how to call me using my room number. She was so proud and told me she just did mom and she told me she missed me.
    I told her that Dad would bring her to see me and Rachel soon. Erin came to visit us. She was so happy to see me. We took a walk and Erin told me that her and Daddy got to pick out places to eat for dinner. She said she picked the hamburger place with the clown.
    Erin thought her younger sister was cute. She pleaded to hold Rachel.
    I told her that she could but reminded her to hold her head. Erin put her thumb in Rachel’s mouth and laughed, and she told me to look how Rachel likes her thumb. I told Erin to use the bottle.
    Rachel smiled at her big sister as she was happy to get her food. Rachel was a happy child and seemed happy to have an older sister. Rachel always smiled at everyone as she got older. Whenever she awoke from any sleep, who ever came to check her would comment on her sparkle her blue eyes and smile at them. It just made everyone melt.

    Rachel would eat everything you put on her plate; she never balked. She always went with the flow.
    Rachel is a compassionate and empathic child. Since nursery school, she always made friends with all types of people and they enjoyed her. Often she and her sister would seek out the severely handicapped and other children that may not be the popular group to play with. A few of the teachers relayed this anticdote to me:
    Rachel’s friends asked them to come and play with her. She asked if they would include Mike and Shelly. They stated “No!” So she and her sister told them that they would not play with them either. I was so proud of the girls after hearing this story.

    Rachel, two years old, became very curious about her cousins. The last cousin of my family was born and she couldn’t contain herself. Rachel went to her aunt and said,
    “Aunt Sherri what is Ricky doing with your breast?”
    “I am nursing or feeding milk to Ricky”
    “Do you have juice in the other one?” she asked.
    Aunt Sherri could only chuckle a laugh and say,
    ” No sweetie just milk is in a mommy.”

    I always remember the birth of my last daughter, Michelle. I was minding my own business one Thursday night. I felt terrible and thought I should call my gynecologist. He was not on call. The next morning I called early. He told me to come in immediately. Sure enough I was ready to have another premature baby, on Friday, November 13th of all days. I was so scared since it was to be another C-section. He told me that the baby was in distress and to get to the hospital.
    Michelle’s life was typical until she was three years old. I noticed Michelle wasn’t as loud and outgoing as her sisters. I was concerned and made an appointment with our doctor to find out about Michelle’s development.
    I asked Dr. Lowe why doesn’t Michelle talk or walk very often. He said watch this and he asked Michelle how old she was. Rachel answered for her with a smile and a wink.
    Then Dr Lowe asked Michelle to walk over to him. Erin carried Michelle over to him. Dr. Lowe sighed and said.
    “See Mrs. S. why should Michelle walk or talk, her sisters do everything for her!”

    Michelle became very independent from three to five years old. I put her in a private kindergarten because her birthday is in Nov and she couldn’t begin public school. When Michelle was six years old she could go to the same school with her sisters.
    In elementary school, Michelle’s kindergarten and first grades teachers complained that Michelle, talked to much with her friends and would give her friend her pencil instead of letting him learn to remember to bring his own supplies to school and his classes.
    When anyone ever asked Michelle when your birth date is she would respond,

    “I was born on that awful day. I don’t know”. She was born Friday the13.

    It was another school year for my girls and I wanted them to be educated by one of

    the best educators. I wanted Mr. D. to teach my daughters because he has a reputation of

    being an excellent teacher (I left a note with the school office to please place Rachel in

    Mr. D’s class.). I felt Mr D. is an amazing, caring teacher! He always has the interests of

    the students at heart. He always manages to highlight every child’s best qualities. I knew

    that he would look after my girls without me having to ask him.

    Since she was a baby, Erin loved when someone read books to her, and as she started reading on her own, nothing would separate her from a good book. Rachel was different. I had experience as a pre-school teacher that included reading readiness.


    CHAPTER 2 A FRIEND STEPS IN

    It was the school year 1994-95, at Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, VA. The sun winked down at the ragged stuffed bear sitting on Mr. D.s bookshelf.
    “Look Mom, here he is!” my daughter Rachel exclaimed as she ran over to the window in her third grade classroom. She saw her beloved stuffed bear perched at the window. We talked about this bear, as we walked back to her classroom to pick up the reading book she had forgotten. Rachel said: “My teacher, Mr.D., has a special friend in our classroom. It is the class “worry bear”, who sits by the window, and gives us sunshine in his letters. If you have something that bothers you, or you just want to say hello, you may write to Mr. Bear, and he will answer you. If you want Mr. D. to see your letter along with Mr. Bear, than you do not put a stamp on the outside of the envelope. If you put the special stamp on the letter, only Mr. Bear will read it.
    I realized immediately the bear was the alter ego of Mr. D. Through the bear, Mr.D. was able to help the students deal with their many issues. The bear always wrote back to the students, so they felt comfortable in talking about their issues and fears. Mr. D. would be able to help the students express their innermost feelings. How generous and amazing an idea it was of Mr. D. to spend time not only with formal education, but with the student’s emotional well-being. I was lost in thought when a person popped out from under the windowsill. Mr D., Rachel’s teacher, said hello to us. He greeted us with his warm smile and understanding gaze. I asked Mr.D. if Mr. Bear could help children feel good about getting onto the bus. He said, “Yes, as long as Rachel would write a note to Mr. Bear. We got our book and said good-bye. Rachel told me she had written a letter and put it in her backpack. She would give it to Mr. Bear in the morning.
    Chapter 3-Rachel’s Right to Write

    I was happy that Rachel wrote to Mr. Bear. My first thought was cool. I felt she has someone she can talk to other then a family member. We are Jewish. We do not have a Santa Claus or Easter Bunny nor do we need to have an “old man Chanukah”. I wondered if Rachel thought the Bear is hers to write to not as a religious icon. I merely asked her.
    “Rachel, why did you write to Mr Bear?”
    “I wanted to Mom! Why not? I just felt like it and I wrote.”

    Rachel wrote often to Mr Bear and he became a comfortable supportive friend. I could see by their exchanges, Rachel’s self esteem seemed positive during her third grade year. I wondered what her letters said.

    I asked Mr. D. to return all the letters in the fall of Rachel’s fourth grade year.
    In the exchanges that follow, I kept the spelling exactly as my daughter wrote it.



  2. #2
    Byron Millard
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    I thought it was good. I felt it was descriptive and drove the point. Besides the occasional grammar mistake (which we all do), the only thing that I would change would be the flow of the story. It's not the story itself or the way it is being told but really the sentence structure that I saw. It is mainly a background piece telling the reader about some of the characters that will be in the story but many sentences start off the same way. She did this, she did that, she went here, etc. Just change the structure up so that the sentences aren't all reading the same. The reader won't be so easily bogged down and lose interest. But overall, I think it was very good. It progressed well, I could understand something about the characters, it wasn't confusing in anyway, and it told the story well. Good job.

  3. #3
    Wonky
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    Is this fiction or non-fiction? It seems like all this is is background info--which really doesn't belong in your book anyway. Your first chapter is really nothing more than a big info dump. Is everything you say even relevant to the story?

    I still want to know if it's the teacher writing the letters or if the bear is the one that really does it. If this is so, how does it work? What is the mechanism behind it?

  4. #4
    martha shmokler
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    WONKY AND BYRON,
    THANKS FOR HELPFUL FEEDBACK.
    YES I have written a nonfiction novella, "the BEAR SAID WHAT?"

    I was instructed by a friend to tell about the characters. This story is about a mom (mostly) and daughter get help from the class worry bear, "Benjamin Barry Bear #8" aka alter ego of the teacher, MR. D. We use the Bear, by writing letters to each other to help us find out if my daughter, who is not obviously having severe learning problems to see if she is learning disabled and could she be given help.

    Are you both telling me that my story is or could be spiffed up in chapter 1 or that you don't think chapter one is needed. I have 3 girls but it is the middle one that we are speaking about in the story but the other two are interspersed sometimes.

    A class bear is needed in the nation to help all children and sometimes adults. It was a great idea for two of mine.

    thanks for help again.
    martha

  5. #5
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    It reads like an outline. Is that your intention? Is this the skeleton of what you're planning to write?

  6. #6
    martha shmokler
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    hi, I am interested to know if you think men (fathers) would read my story. In case you did not get this: my story is written in letter format except the first three chapters. the second chapter is one page. (is it "ok" to have a one page chapter?).
    I don't see where you see this story is an outline? I don't understand your feedback Leslee. thanks for responding.
    thanks all
    martha

  7. #7
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    Well, I'll explain. The writing has a bare-bones flat quality to it that is frequently found in what I call an outline. It lacks intensity, even though the situations are emotional. It reads very this-happened, then that-happened, and does not have the flow of a piece that has been fully fleshed out. I'm not saying the writing is bad. I'm saying it doesn't read as a completed piece.

    Just my opinion, Martha.

    And yes, it's fine to have a one-page chapter, as long as that page holds its own with longer chapters.

  8. #8
    Wonky
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    What leslee is trying to say is that you are just TELLING. You are basicaly just listing things, not SHOWING what happens.

    Chapter seems like nothing more than background info. Personally I don't think you need it.

  9. #9
    cara k
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    If the book is focused on the middle child, I don't think you need so much detail about the birth and infant stages of all the girls. I'd just get right to the heart of the matter.
    I think this is a great idea, but your writing needs a lot more work. There are more than a few grammar mistakes, as well as some confusing paragraphs, and unclear sentences. Is this your first draft, Martha?
    Good luck with it; I wish more schools had a worry bear!

    --Cara K

  10. #10
    Simon Says
    Guest

    Re: feedback

    Hi Martha,

    I'm impressed by your determination and tenacity.

    I think what Wonky and leslee and are trying to point out to you is that at this point, your writing still lacks the style and flow that is necessary for something to be a good read. Your excerpt is too dry, flat and boring in style to engage the reader. It feels more like an essay than a story. You are telling us what happened rather than putting us in the moment with you. Regardless of the genre, agents, publishers and readers are all looking for manuscripts that are a good read.

    I once had a fiction writing instructor who would say that writing is about evoking the senses. Fleshing things out so the reader can see and hear and smell and feel what you are writing about. This is what makes a good read.

    I think at this juncture you would benefit from taking a creative writing course which would teach how to write in a way that evokes the senses and would also help you discover and tap into your unique voice that will make your writing more compelling.

    Also there's no such things as a non fiction novella. A novella, by definition is fiction.

    I wish you all the best with this manuscript. You clearly have a story that you feel is worth telling, but if you want others to hear your story, you need to learn how to write in a way that engages them.

    Best,

    Simon

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