The Dreaded Feedback

This past weekend my critique group and I had a discussion about revising and how very hard it can be. You want the feedback, you get it, and you even see the point. The problem is, then you’ve got to pick yourself up and jump back into revisions on the manuscript. Maybe you’re so sick of the story you just don’t want to read that scene yet again, let alone rewrite it for the umpteenth time. Maybe you’ve got clashing ideas or far too many pages of new research, and you can’t decide where to begin. Maybe the rest of your life is calling to you and the writing time just seems too elusive. Today I’m gearing up to jump back into revisions on my WIP, but before I began I came across some perfect advice about taking critiques from HM Waugh, How to Take Critiques Without Crying — Five Steps to Awesome.

Waugh’s got five really great points about taking critiques, and I’ve got one thing to add. A critique partner, beta reader, or editor worth their salt is critiquing to help make your work shine. Their first job must be to be your reader’s advocate. That’s  who you’re writing for, right, your reader? But secondly, those who read your work in its unfinished stages are reading your work to help you make it the best it can be. Remember that if you get discouraged. Even if they’re telling you things you don’t want to hear, ultimately they’re rooting for you and for your story.

Great Advice for Writers About the Editing Process

Editing Pic creative-108545_1920 (2)A great read, this Writers Digest article explains the different kinds of editing and the things you should consider before you hire a freelance editor.

Writers Digest: “Ten Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You–But Should

Scarcity Culture

Is the gas tank half full or half empty?


Originally posted in May 2013, “Scarcity Culture” has become one of the most popular of my web posts.

Have you heard the phrase “scarcity culture”? It seems to be big right now – something that’s regularly popping up on blogs and my Twitter feed. As I understand it, our living in a scarcity culture means that we’re always focused on what we lack rather than on what we have.

It’s ironic, right? We Americans who have so very, very much are completely focused on what we’re missing. I think we’re all guilty of this, though maybe to greater or lesser degrees. I know I can be quick to complain that I just don’t have enough time when I’m asked to do another volunteer job or pick up a snack for Youth Group at church when I’ve already done the weekly shopping. Could I have done it in the thirty minutes I spent noodling on Twitter? Sure, I could. But I didn’t.

But that’s not really the point I want to make about this idea of scarcity, otherwise I’ll be writing yet another article about how to budget your time wisely. You can Google time management if you’re looking for advice about that. I can tell you; there’s a lot out there on that particular subject.

No, my thoughts on living in a scarcity culture when the reality for so many of us is luxury have little to do with fixing problems that might lead to scarcity thinking – problems like time management or money management or stuff management. My thoughts have much more to do with changing how we’re thinking about our lives and what’s happening in them. As I’ve considered what I’ve read about scarcity culture, I’ve realized that it’s really a kind of pessimism. It’s an eagerness to see the glass half empty rather than half full.

Though I succumb to scarcity thinking some of the time, I’m naturally an optimist. It’s a family trait, passed down from my dad’s family. I once overheard a conversation between the in-laws at a family reunion. They were discussing how annoying it could be that this family was so darned cheerful and optimistic all the time, so unrealistic! And yet, there’s much to be said for counting one’s blessings.

May is my birthday month. As I embark upon this newest year of my life, I’m making a resolution. In this culture of scarcity I’m going to redouble my efforts to notice the incredible amount of luxury we have. For the next year I’m going to try to notice the things that I have more often than I notice the things that I lack. It’s easy to try to do six fun things on one weekend and fail because there really, truly isn’t enough time. It’s harder, but oh so much more rewarding, to do one fun thing in a weekend – to be really present, to enjoy every second. That’s my goal, to focus on that one fun thing, and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll have time to give the bathroom that really good scrubbing it’s been needing. And maybe, when I’m finished with that, I’ll feel good about that, too.

“Star Wars” on the Reservation (for kids)

Photo by Colin Bedson used under a creative commons license.

A kids’ article, part of this week’s repost series.

There’s a new version of Star Wars in select theaters, and it’s on a mission to keep the Navajo language alive.

The Navajo are a Native American people who live in the southwest United States. Recently, the elders of the Navajo people became concerned because thousands of Navajo children and young adults are learning English as their primary language instead of learning the Navajo language, Diné (DEE- nay). Many Navajo children speak and understand little Diné. The elders decided to act to keep Diné alive.

Manuelito Wheeler and the elders of the Navajo people picked George Lucas’ 1977 movie Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope to help teach the ancient language of the Navajo people. They knew that both adults and children would enjoy watching Star Wars over and over, and they’d have to watch a lot to learn Diné.

Diné uses both words and tonal change to convey meaning. It is extremely hard to learn if you haven’t grown up hearing and speaking it.

What is tonal change?

English doesn’t have many examples of tonal change, but here’s one. Think about how you ask a question in English. At the end of the question your voice goes up. That tells your listener you are asking a question instead of making a statement.  (In a statement, your tone goes down at the end.) Unlike English, in Diné, there are tonal changes throughout the sentences that have meaning, too.

The elders figured that if the English-language voices in the movie could be replaced by voices in Diné using a process called dubbing both children and adults could enjoy watching the movie, and kids who didn’t speak Diné  would begin to understand the words and tones. Wheeler contacted the makers of the film to see if they would be willing to help, and they were.

Once it started, the project was completed very quickly. A team of five translators worked together on the script, and the whole translation was finished in about thirty-six hours. They had to work hard, though. A lot of the words in the original film simply don’t exist in Navajo, so the translators substituted other words.

Translator Jennifer Wheeler gave one example of a word important to the movie that couldn’t be easily replaced in Diné. “Droid” is a technological word, and there’s no word for it in Diné.  So the translation for “droid” might be “the short metal thing that’s alive.” That makes talking about R2-D2 and C3P0 a mouthful!

Dubbing is the process of putting new voice sounds in place of the original voices in the movie. In dubbed movies the movements of the actor’s lips don’t match the words viewers hear. The original words also limit the amount of time you have to say things. The Navajo translators had to make some changes so that the Diné words matched the movements of the actors’ lips a little better.

The dubbing process was easiest for the battle scenes where there’s a lot of action. When the action is intense, viewers are not focused on the actors’ lips the way they are in a quieter scene. Darth Vader was also easy to dub because his mask hides his lips.

Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum, had the great idea to use Star Wars to help preserve Diné. And it seems to be working. Young people at the first viewing of the film told James Junes, the Navajo actor who dubbed Han Solo’s part, that they planned to speak more Diné now that they had watched the movie.

What movie would you choose to help preserve an ancient language?

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

This picture is terribly misleading. This was last year’s beachy vacation. Only one day at the beach for us this summer.

I grew up reading about the dreaded “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay. It seemed nearly every character in the middle grade and young adult novels I read was stuck writing such an essay at the start of the school year. So much so that I eagerly anticipated the year that it would be my turn. (Don’t judge. When you’re the youngest child, keeping up with your elder siblings means eagerly anticipating even the worst eventualities because having endured them might just mean you’re finally old enough to be taken seriously.)

Somehow I never had to endure that particular rite of passage in school. I guess that my teachers didn’t think so much of the tradition. Nevertheless, I continued to think about it and contemplate what I would write if asked. It’s not that I would have had a great deal to report. My family did not take exciting or luxurious vacations, and as I grew older I had very mundane summer jobs, but somehow I still wanted to write about it.

It wasn’t until several years after college that I got my chance. A job I applied for required a writing sample, and rather than pull out some dusty Religious Studies paper out of the basement file box marked COLLEGE, I wrote a “What I Did for My Summer Vacation” essay.  In February.

I don’t have the faintest memory now what I wrote, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t keep a copy, but perhaps because I’d been musing on the form of what I would write for so long, I got the job. And perhaps because the idea’s stuck in my head, or maybe because my one attempt was successful, I still  tend to approach summer with an eye to remembering, at least until the following summer, what interesting and noteworthy things I did when school was not in session.

Now the kids are back in school for another year and I’m thinking back over the summer days. I won’t write an essay this year, and I’m sure to avoid the more mundane details of my summer life, but I thought it would be fun to post a record here of my summer vacation 2016.