8.28.2005

CrapoMeter Volunteer #4


I thought Tuesday, August 24th was my first day as a new woman. Silly of me, now that I think back on it, for our lives are a mish-mash of decisions made and mistakes waiting to mar the future.

That particular morning I looked around my new home-away-from-home, taking in the sights and sounds of my classroom. Sue Harper, Art Instructor. No, better than that. Susan Harper, Art Professor, recent widow and newly free, er... independent woman.

As the sounds of the first students entering the hallway filtered through the open doorway, I bit back the glee and terror that threatened to erupt from my throat.

Deep breath, Sue. You can do this.

Affirmations, my counselor called them. But I'd repeated such drivel so often, the damn phrases were becoming a mantra.

I needed something to do, something to keep me from having to watch the terrifying faces lining up, looking to me for guidance. Yeah, me. What a farce. At thirty-nine, I was the one in need of a road map for living. These college students, fresh faces and all could probably teach me a few things. Little did they know that as incoming freshmen, they had the advantage. They'd been to school in recent years, were used to the routine. It had been years, over a decade actually, since I'd sat in a classroom.

Before I became totally unnerved over that particular thought, I swung about, grabbed chalk and wrote "Susan Harper, Drawing 101" on a green chalkboard.

Well done, Professor. Now, deep breath, confident smile and turn.

With that positive reinforcement, I replaced the chalk in the tray, brushed the dust off my fingers and faced my students. Hopefully, they wouldn't see the tremors that shook my hands and weakened my knees.


This is a classic along the lines of Gertrude Stein's comment about her hometown Oakland, "there is no there, there" There's nothing overtly wrong with this. No whacky stuff, nothing that makes me throw up my hands in despair at the quality of the slush pile.

But, there's nothing that grabs me here either. It's not bad. It's just not good enough. Think of it like this: when we turned out for soccer in the fourth grade, everybody played- regardless of ability. No-cut policies on the elementary school teams were common. Then we got to junior high and there was a winnowing process. By the time we got to high school, tryouts for the team were mandatory and even then, a couple of us rode the bench and only played when the score was lopsided. Most high school athletes don't go on to play college ball, let alone play professionally.

It doesn't mean the high school athletes are bad, it's just they aren't good enough.

The good thing here is you can work on your skills and keep trying out for the team. No four year graduation requirement!

Some of the places I'd look for improvement in this piece are: description.

You write: That particular morning I looked around my new home-away-from-home, taking in the sights and sounds of my classroom

What sights and sounds?
What did it smell like? Did it smell like her grade school art room.

The first step for good writing is imagining deeply.

Being a good writer is like being a good cook: you know how much salt is enough to make it tasty and how much curry you need to keep it from burning down your mouth. And while learning to be a good cook, sometimes you get bland.

Sorry, but this would come back to you with a "not right for us".

2 comments:

Cheryl said...

Shall I start 'Your Highness?'

Maybe not. LOVE your site, found via Me Strauss. I can really appreciate people who will put themselves out to respect others by telling them the truth; in a world of platitudes the truth without packaging is such an honour. I have no book, nothing to present, (and I see I'm an annoying adverb addict so I wouldn't!) but am learning a lot.

I could have just said 'Hi and thanks'. Too bad!

Kathie said...

This kind of feedback is to the point and easily applied--that's right I"m rewriting sections of my novel as I read your thoughts...Thaks for being there.