Thursday, June 20, 2013

Prairie Grl is Shunned

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”
     --Ann Lamont  
        Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I have become the unpopular girl in my writing class.  You might ask, "How could this have happened, Eydie, with you being so sweet and personable?"  Let me back up to Monday, the first day of writing class (Children's Books:  Write & Submit Your Stories). 

I was extremely anxious.  Perfectionist me only had a few vague ideas and one poorly developed manuscript that was in its final 3rd draft stage (That is a common writer's joke).  First, the instructor introduced herself and her impressive stack of published picture books. Then she asked if we had any questions.  Hands shot up like bottle rockets.

"How did you find an agent?"

"Will you look over my query letter?"

"What is the market for slice-of-life writing?"  

My anxiety migrated to my throat, stayed there, and grew.  Finally, after more questions of royalties, editors, and illustrators, I raised my hand and asked, "Aren't we talking about publishing on Friday?  Shouldn't we be talking about plot or character development or . . ." 

And that, Prairie Readers, is the moment I became unpopular.  The room became silent.  My once interactive peers were now sulky, like a three year old denied a plastic Cinderella tiara.  Some straightened the pages of their manuscripts.  Others dunked tea bags repeatedly in their paper cups.  The instructor agreed with me about Friday being the targeted publishing day and moved on.

Oh wait.  I did do another extremely obnoxious thing the first day.  Classmate Delilah (not her real name) announced it was on her bucket list to be hugged by Jack Gantos.  (I highly recommend his memoir Hole in My Life.)  Well, I HAVE been hugged by Jack Gantos and have an iPhone photo to prove it.  A sensitive soul would have kept the Gantos pic under wraps.  But not overtired, freaked out me.  I generously shared the photo of  me and Jack in a friendly clench.   

My classmates shunned me during break.  They didn't include me in their banter.  I had serious damage control to do because I am somewhat a people pleaser and not used to being unpopular.  The damage control process isn't all that interesting, but did involve me writing copious notes (with smiley faces) on their manuscripts, raising and lowering swivel chairs to the correct height, and giving away my owl mug.

Back to me being a perfectionist.  I did NOT want to throw out my self-centered hamster manuscript.  I thought if I could just force myself to write another 7 drafts I might have something that could possibly work.  Luckily, Sharon told me the hamster was dead, beginning to stink, and needed to be buried.  I am so relieved not to have to write about that surly hamster anymore.  Friday I will present my story to the group. 

"Buddy arrived in town with dirty paws and an appetite for dairy products.  Unlike most cats he wasn't lactose intolerant, though he had a problem with gluten. . ."  

To be continued.  Eydie


  1. You are wonderful, Eydie. So is Gus the Hamster!!! He's only self-centered in the beginning of the story! Sad he has been buried, and I missed the funeral! I am looking forward though to meeting Buddy!

  2. Now I am thinking that Gus the Hamster needs to come back. OH WAIT. The funeral already happened. Eydie

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  4. Gosh, if I'd known sooner, Eydie, I'd have recommended (with all my heart), rush ordering a t-shirt with that photo of you and Jack Gantos on it so that you could wear it to class before it adjourns. Is this a one week class? Rats--too late for this year, but you'll be back next year. And Buddy is going to be one kick-arse cat. BTW, my boyfriend in college dug up his dead fish (multiple times) to see how the decomposition was coming along, so don't completely rule out exhuming the hamster. A good writer knows when to perform such courageous/macabre feats. (Sort of like when I got over the creepy fish thing and married the college boyfriend).

  5. Amy Jo - you are such a kindred spirit. You know how these classes go. The class is over for the year - but that gives me time to have a whole series of "Me n" Jack" t-shirts made, maybe even a few handbags. So funny about the decomposing fish and the boyfriend. I hope he wasn't in college digging up the fish. Hugs. Eydie