A day after arriving in Charleston (Yes, I’m in college now. I may not write about it too much at first, and yes, I finally solved the Roommate Mystery), I met up with the valedictorian from my old high school. Blog readers might know him best as the guy who wrote the treatise on the Chick-fil-A affair. We met in Marion Square a block from campus where they held a lovely Farmer’s Market.
Perhaps the word “lovely” serves too quaintly for what I saw downtown. In Aiken, we have a Farmer’s Market which consists of five tables filled with tomatoes, maybe heads of lettuce and watermelon when they’re in season. In Charleston, this same name is given to a row of booths stretched thousands of yards, scents from each tent intermingling to create a scent-solid fist that punches you in the taste buds. You wander over and must delight in the endless options, whether Vietnamese or French. I had a fine cappuccino and a Nutella crepe (Wait, am I in Germany again?)
With these delectable munchies, I sat down to talk with Will Victor who recently finished reading my novel “In Lickskillet.” If I am to learn anything about how to improve, I have to ask really smart people their honest opinions. Then apply those opinions to the work as a whole to understand how to better the story, the writing, the presentation.
But getting back feedback, even from friends, can be nerve-wracking. After all, you have placed a delicate porcelain doll in their hands, a doll so valuable to you that you’ve kept it under wraps for months, painting the face with care, and now this person has consummate permission to shatter the doll’s head against the ground. Writing opens you up in ways much grosser than emotions; rather, your skin gets split in dissection, your ribs pried apart in the same gruesome manner you once used on rats during biology class. You place your guts on display. You crack open your cranium to display all the dreams hiding within.
Because writing is personal, both personal and public. That’s one strange contradiction that words can flow from some inner fount only to be flaunted to the masses. You the poet writing poetry, sincere and true, but you do so in some coffeehouse where any stranger could peek over your shoulder. Writing a novel, it may not be specifically about you, but every story is a memoir and contains flecks of truth that could shock or amaze. You spend months creating something with so many parts of yourself that by the end, you find yourself missing organs.
Then you place this strange literary effigy in the town square for scrutiny.
And there’s your novel, your book, your story, your words. Like a middle school girl on her first day, applying make up for the first time, smudging the eyeliner on her forehead. You become a pinata braced for the beating, a flimsy piece of paper, shouting “Go ahead. Poke holes in me.”
Because feedback isn’t just feedback. It’s personal. Fortunately, Will had a lot of great things to say about the book. The small things he disliked, I understand why he disliked them. Actually, I was astonished at the scenes that he liked the most.
If you would like to form your own opinion and maybe even share that opinion with me, check out the super-short excerpt I posted yesterday on Word Salad!