He told the worst
jokes and the best jokes. He couldn’t open a milk carton or an aspirin bottle.
He was almost twice as old as I was when he died. Yet no barriers ever prevented
us from talking, dancing, drinking, laughing together – two friends.
Why must we learn the same
lessons over and over? It’s true in life and true in art. Darn it.
Here’s the ever-so-basic writing
lesson I relearned this week: Write a first draft. Put it in a drawer. Wait a
week or so. Revisit it with new eyes.
You’d think I would have
remembered such an elementary lesson after writing for the public since 1977.
But I had lost that gem. Maybe I misplaced it because my years of freelancing
were followed by steady assignments in newspapers, magazines, and advertising –
where I learned to write fast and
meet deadlines. Then, last March, when I found three writing contests I could
enter for free, I ran amok and dashed off three entries in a fell swoop. I
wrote headlong and e-mailed them in one evening of hyper-inspiration.
Yesterday, three months
after I entered the contests, I pulled out the entries to share with my friend Liz Rhodebeck, an excellent writer, for critique. To my dismay, I read the first entry
and found it choppy and hard to follow. Here and there I found confusion with my descriptions of bodies in motion. Worst of all (and inexcusable)
was the fact that a character’s name suddenly changed in the story. Yeah…that
might throw a reader. That mistake was a result of careless editing: I had
changed the name every time but one. Had I simply used “Find and Replace,” I
could have remedied the problem. But I was rushing along too fast for that
So today I rewrite…and swallow
my pride. As a lesson to myself, and to any interested writer, below you’ll
find the original bollixed essay (which appeared here as a blog post, in a slightly different form),
followed by a rewrite. The revision isn’t perfect. We writers know that no work
is ever perfect; we don’t finish anything so much as abandon it. But I think
the rewrite flows better and makes more sense.
Too bad I can't re-enter the contest! Haste makes waste. May I never bollix up such a
Almost every weekend during the warm months, my husband and I live in our trailer on Little Green Lake in Markesan, Wisconsin. We appreciate the slow pace there and the relative lack of crime. Yes, there are some serious crimes in Markesan: domestic disputes, drunken driving, some burglary. But much more often, the local paper features news like the following items in its weekly "Police Beat" (courtesy Markesan Regional Reporter):
We writers do our work in solitude.
We’re alone so much that sometimes it’s hard for us to keep believing in the
worth of what we do. When people tell us how our words affect them, it’s like
getting the biggest hug in the world.
This is an official thank
you to those who have shared kind reviews about my new book, Dessert First.
I live in Menomonee Falls, just outside the City of Milwaukee. When I open the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I read about murders, rapes, and armed robbery. When my husband and I drive "up North" to Markesan, Wisconsin, I find the police reports somewhat refreshing. There are a few serious crimes, but most police calls involve dogs, cows, car lockouts, funeral processions, and lost items.I haven't posted a Markesan Police Beat summary since last summer. I'm here to catch up, courtesy of the staff writers of the Markesan Regional Reporter (I don't include the more serious crimes, of course) ....