This month is my turn to submit to the critique group, a peer review.
Emotionally, it’s like preparing to go to the dentist or thinking about those horror flicks where strips of skin are torn off. I have three on-going manuscripts, but unfortunately, the ready-to-go twenty five crisp pages are in an in-progress piece the group members like the least. The working title is “Mavis and Helen,” a mystery, set in south Georgia. To be fair, my fellow writers aren’t from blue-collar country folk and some of the material doesn’t translate. I remember a comment about the word cattywampus. Paraphrasing: If I was going to use a word this member needed to look up, I should make it a word worth her trouble. One she could use. By the way according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, cattywampus means: kitty corner, askew, or awry. Pretty darn classy–the word askew.
We all have our pet peeves about certain words. My husband scorns the way “juxtaposition” works it’s way into to every artistic gathering. I call our choice and aversion to some words versus other meaningful words, vocabulary snobbery, but what do I know. The word “cattywampus” makes me smile.
Wandering toward my original point: My story is about two sisters, thus “Mavis and Helen,” who are very different. One just wants to be left alone to drink her coffee in peace, and the other is in everybody’s business. Also, there’s a Drug Enforcement Agent or DEA agent based on a story my mama told me about a leather-clad biker who rattled some elderly women by visiting a local United Methodist Church in Barnesville, Georgia after the Wednesday night prayer meeting.
The way my mother told the story: “Being summertime, the church front door was wide open. This big guy with a ponytail and beard walked in and said, ‘I was passing by and felt the presence of the Lord. I was wondering how you all would feel about me buying some land and settling down around here with my lady, a black truck driver.'” It turned out this guy was a Rhodes scholar with a PhD in world religions. I created two characters from that story. Dewey Blackmon, the aforementioned DEA agent, and Cora Dupree, a truck driver of African descent, who are two of my favorite buddies. Don’t laugh. They talk to me–kind of.
I have digressed.
During a verbal critique you’re suppose to make at least three positive comments, hit the highlights, and discuss the confusing parts in the manuscript leaving the minor mistakes, like typos, or other more embarrassing errors in your written comments for the writer to go over in private, cringe, and vow to never make that mistake again. Letting another writer save face is always a good option. It’s never a safe bet to underestimate a Missourian and make her feel like you tried to “put her in her place.”
Remember, dear colleagues, your time for review will be coming up soon.