After editing and fussing until nearly the last minute, I submitted my short story about the 1904 Pleasant Ridge Disaster, In No Way Responsible, to a local fiction contest. Wish me luck!
Back in my other life, I was part of a unit that trained researchers at the University of Cincinnati how to better conduct Team Science. There are deeper scientific insights and more creativity when we team with people who think differently than we do. This has proven true in my writing endeavors, as well!
The story I just submitted was improved by:
- My Harp Teacher. She often advises me to drill the tough parts of a tune I am learning rather than to keep limping through the tune as a whole. This gave me the insight to pause and spend time brainstorming more vibrant metaphors for dry areas of the manuscript. She also saved me from a lame story ending.
- A Financial Analyst. She is excellent at seeing how everything fits together. She caught the underdevelopment of a critical character and a misaligned ending. (My try at a better ending had failed!)
- My Writing Partner. This retired English teacher helped me with ideas, language, syntax, edits, and encouragement.
- A Ph.D. in Public Health. This NPR reporter’s glee in my research posts about this story’s historical background was energizing. This was a lifesaver when my energy for writing fiction was flagging.
- A Computer Analyst. His passion for typesetting made the final submission shine. He lovingly laid out a flawless final document in Garamond for me.
- An English Professor. Her deep passion for the English language helped me steer clear of violating expected collocations. (I was trying to be fresh. I was really just jarring.)
- A Lawyer. Her in-depth feedback on what called to her and what seemed dissonant was priceless.
- My Aikido Sensei. These teachers helped me achieve a strong final product because their common refrain “Finish the throw!” was ringing through my memory. Often times, Aikidoka will work hard to take their attacker’s balance only to put marginal effort into the final motion of the technique, the throw. This means all of the prior efforts were largely wasted. As the deadline for the contest was looming, and I was tired, I remembered my Sensei and made myself complete the work with appropriate technique and diligence.
It is tough to write well in a bubble. We can’t get out of our own heads, and the diverse outside perspectives of others crack the eggs we forgot to scramble.
My friends, thank you so much for your gifts!