Sunday, April 2, 2017

Slice 27 of 31-#sol17: Please give me more than pretty sound

This is the 10th year that Two Writing Teachers has hosted the Slice of Life Challenge. Day 27 of this 31 day writing challenge!


I'd mailed my critical thesis--all 35 pages of it--ten days ago. The insecure part of me was really ready to hear if it made sense, if the ideas were good, how much more work I'd have to do in order to produce an original thesis on the role a setting can play within middle grade fiction. The Type A part of me wanted to hear my work was on a "this will be great" path...hard to admit, but I have that tendency. 

My critique finally arrived at 7 tonight. Here's how it started:
Okay, so now I have the entire rough draft in front of me. The good news is the overall shape is there. Structurally it's pretty sound. I found as I read through this twice over vacation that my focus for revision is more so on a line basis, as it will be with the next packet in which I line edit the hardcopy from start to finish.
Really? The overall shape? Really??? It's pretty sound??? I have to say that I had a hard time translating pretty sound. When I emailed him and asked about how to interpret that phrase, he responded that "pretty sound" is actually high phrase. I guess I missed that translation on the first go-round. 

He sent 21 pages with sentence suggestions and tweaks. Every once in a while, I got a solid or a good. Once or twice there might have been a great. Does it sound super insecure to admit how much those tidbits of compliments meant to me?

I believe in myself as a writer. I really do know that my paper is okay. Maybe even more than pretty sound. That being said, mental note to self: writers need compliments. We need reactions. We need to know when our writing resonates, whether we are five, fifty, or a hundred. 

Today I will comment on writing. I will also teach students, conferring and talking to them about their works in progress. I will not say anything is pretty sound. That's pretty--I don't know--pretty something. 

Happy Slicing,


  1. I could relate to so many of the thoughts and feelings in this slice. Thanks for sharing your vulnerability and congrats on your thesis work! Wow!

  2. Ouch!
    21 pages of line edits after "Structurally it's pretty sound."
    Not appropriate!


    I can feel your pain! I remember writing my dedication paragraph for my thesis 37 times until I told my committee "enough was enough"! And that was BEFORE word processing! LOL

    1. He really is a great mentor, and he makes me a better writer. It's the word "pretty" that's hard to decipher.

  3. I was feeling as anxious as you in the waiting... Such big work deserves more positive comments first, with the feedback interspersed to lift the level of the writing. It sounds like you may need to put it aside, and reread it when you are in a super-pumped mood, so that you can be more objective in reading the feedback? Just a thought. When I returned to college in my forties to pursue education, I had this great professor for one of my writing courses. He typed up lengthy comments and always began with positive. personal connections on content, before moving to the areas that needed revision. He served as great mentor for me in the classroom, just as this moment has had a profound effect on you as a coach. Your topic sounds amazing - setting affects all people, but middle schoolers, who are highly sensitive, are very in-tune to the physical and the emotional settings in their lives. Good luck!

  4. Yikes... yes- you make such a good point here Melanie. No doubt your paper is more than "pretty sound." Your slice above is full of voice. I can almost hear you and I can definitely picture you as you read through his comments. I really like the way you ended this slice.

  5. You have hit a nerve for me. I need to remember that when I comment on my students' writings. It's my intent, but I don't know that I hit the mark. Last week, I left a one word comment to a student, "nice." He's in sixth grade, and he heard it in a sarcastic tone. When he spoke it back to me, I was able to clarify that the nice was a good thing.
    In your MFA program, you are learning so much more than how to be a good writer!

    1. Yes! Nice is like pretty. He's a really great mentor, and you're an amazing and inspiring writing teacher. There are some words that I'm learning to avoid in terms of feedback.

  6. So sorry -- it is amazing what the right editor can do!! Our current editor is amazing - it is not only the specificity of her feedback, it is how she says it. She always leaves us with a clear path and motivated to "get back at it" in her words. This process of writing this book has been amazing!!! Hang in there -- it sounds amazing. Setting is a recent obsession of mine - even in elementary. I don't think we pay enough attention to the importance of this element. We even wrote a post about it last year -- I would love to hear more about your thesis -- I know we will learn from the work you are doing!! Thanks for the reminder in terms of our work with student writers.

  7. Thanks for the reminder that 'Writers need compliments. We need reactions." This has to be given sooner than later.

  8. What a powerful reminder! Oh, and this post is pretty great. The structure, overall is pretty sound : ) JK I love that you took a moment from your own writing life and applied it to your teaching life with kids. I can hear your voice come through loud and clear in your writing.

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