Feedback from Critics on “DOTS”

Due to my perfectionist nature, I have put “Daughters of the Soil” (“DOTS”) through the wringer (five covers, uncountable revisions, pre-view of Chapter 1 via FB and e-mail, and many literary workshops). It has emerged looking better for the wear.
Disclaimer: These are not official Amazon book reviews.  
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Feedback:

Good job crafting a story with a very clear sense of conflict and tension, combined with loss. You do a good job of using precise diction.

The description of the setting in this piece is on the lighter-side; you’re using the characters to illuminate the place.

I loved getting to know David and his run to the police station. It tells us so much about him, the town, everything else going on. SD

Good job of tying everything together about the two characters and by this point, I have established in my mind who Officers Audu and Orile are. AJ

·         Love this: The imagery, care taken symbolized by the imagery “raw brown eggs” – eggs being delicate and brown ones being even much rarer; I Love This Entire Imagery and dynamic portrayed here with Obi Udara’s family.

·         I read the first chapter and really appreciate the detail, description, and desperation that is in the run of David to the police station. I look forward to reading the entire book. –CM

·         I think more dialogue should occur between Emelda and Florence.

·         Regarding pacing, you could reduce how much time is spent on Emelda’s beauty.

·         Duplicate words slow down the pacing.

·         I would like to stay a little longer in Emelda and Obi’s bedroom when the shirt fell.

·         This is a great example of Showing us how the character feels about his family vs. telling us.–Ousmane

·         I have been hooked and pulled into this “world” of these characters. I am intrigued and want to read more.

·         The elegance of your writing, the synchronicities of each detail weaving into the next, seamlessly. I loved reading this; and again, I want more.

Your attention to detail is impressive!

The intricate personal traits you gave regarding Emelda, and the other characters, remind me of Flannery O’Connor’s work. When the narrator dipped into Emelda and Florence’s heads in a third-person omniscient, which is an older style, that is also in tune with O’Connor’s writing.–Deb

I feel like your story was something like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley because of your unusual word-smithing and “the women wanting to join the police force.” You have created so many lexicons and phrases. Is this the future?

The work reads beautifully.

·         Wow – there is so much elegance in your writing here (and throughout the piece). This section gives me a solid sense of Emelda’s character. I have a strong…bond with her character due to the care taken in describing her in this passage.

·         We, the readers, are learning so much about Emelda here – about her perfect mixture of class and humility. Wow. This is great writing. Thank you!

“The prose is fluid, lush, and vivid throughout. You have a good sense of rhythm and the dialogue flows naturally throughout. There’s also a strong sense of tension and conflict in the piece, which engages the reader and propels them to continue with the story.” SD

·         I love the way you wrap so many insights into your language, giving us the customs, fears, and hopes of the people in this country, not just the main characters. Really lovely piece. Excellent work. –SC

You have a wonderful lyrical and almost mystical quality in your work. Your work reminds me of Jhumpa Lahiri; Lydia Yuknavich; Amy Bloom; Isabel Alledne; Elena Ferrante; and magical realists like Bolano and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” Sarah S.

Using an emotional physical space like a kitchen to do the work of revealing character, plot, tension and setting is so difficult, but you do it effortlessly.

·         Compelling characters and plot!

·         You have a real sense of symbolism in this piece, and reading it, it occurred to me that this is really your strength in terms of atmosphere, tone, and mood.  Your work always has an undercurrent to what’s happening on the surface, which is one of the strongest ways to establish symbolism without making it seem clichéd or forced. JG

·         Very strong work, attention to detail, and diction.

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Joan Didion’s Essay Re-imagined

Joan Didion is one of America’s foremost writers. She writes her essays in what I have determined as a one-liner prose. She condenses her prose into as few words as she could.

Her one-liner prose sentences rivet me. If Didion collected all the one-liners and made them into poetry, I think they would really make me cry at the volume they speak with tacit, muffled words:

In my head I always see writers and poets write like Ezra Pound in “In a Station of the Metro.”

I have chosen to re-imagine “After Life,” the first essay she wrote after she lost her husband. After John’s death, Joan’s paper was silent for over a year.

I have transformed the sentences into poetry.

“After Life:” an essay by Joan Didion examining the day her husband died.

I have re-titled it as “A Make-believe Poem” (Frances Ohanenye)

 

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.

For a long time I wrote nothing else.

Life changes in the instant.

The ordinary instant.

It is now, as I begin to write this,

the afternoon of October 4, 2004.

December 30, 2003, a Tuesday.

We had seen Quintana in the

sixth-floor I.C.U. at Beth Israel North.

We had come home.

We had discussed whether to

go out for dinner or eat in.

I said I would build a fire, we could eat in.

I built the fire, I started dinner,

I asked John if he wanted a drink.

John was talking, then he wasn’t.

I remember saying, Don’t do that.

When I read this at breakfast

almost 11 months after the night

with the ambulance and the social worker,

I recognized the thinking as my own.

I remember thinking that

I needed to discuss this with John.

There was nothing I did not discuss with John.

The sign-off, I later learned,

was called the “pronouncement,”

as in “Pronounced: 10:18 p.m.”

I had to believe he was dead all along.

If I did not believe he was

dead all along I would have

thought I should have been able to save him.

What did he mean?

Did he know he would not write the book?

You sit down to dinner.

“You can use it if you want to,” John had said when

I gave him the note he had

dictated a week or two before.

And then – gone.

My father was dead, my mother was dead,

I would need for a while to watch for mines,

but I would still get up in the morning

and send out the laundry.

I would still plan a menu for Easter lunch.

I would still remember to renew my passport.

Tightness in the throat.

Choking, need for sighing.

Lynn arrived.

We sat in the part of the

living room where the blood

and electrodes and syringes were not.

Lynn picked up the phone and said

that she was calling Christopher.

And I was.

Then I remembered.

For several weeks that would be

the way I woke to the day.

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.

I needed to be alone so that he could come back.

The swell of clear water.

That was one way my two systems could have converged.

============================

See what I mean? I am crying.

What Type of Hunger Are You Experiencing?

Hello,

My name is Frances Ohanenye, and I would like a moment of your time to discuss a topic to which I hope you can relate.

The topic is HUNGER. What type of hunger have you experienced? Are you experiencing?

While I wait for your response/feedback, let me share my story of hunger. There is a type of hunger that is beyond food and water, beyond material things. No matter the type of person you are, I believe you may have experienced this time of insatiable appetite. It is not hunger for love or relationship either although we hunger for those as well.

Paper_and_PencilIt came to my attention when I was only eight years old. I remember vividly getting paper and pencil (or pen) and starting to write a story. I guess you could say that being an avid reader at that age would lead naturally to writing, but how would an eight-year-old know that? I remember winning a spelling contest.

ExcellenceI guess that meant that I could spell correctly. I guess my teacher knew that I loved to read because my prize for being the first-place winner of that spelling contest was a book. My teacher wrote “First Place Winner” and my name. The recognition did not satisfy any hunger in me, so that must not have been the hunger that possessed me.

But how do being a good speller and being a voracious reader translate into an obsessed writer at that age? I did not know what to call it, but it must have been a special hunger that welled inside me and moved my little legs and hands to search our house for paper and writing utensils, to find an unobtrusive place and sit and begin to write.

Black Girl WritingSomething propelled me to pour things down. I do not recall hesitating or having what people call writer’s block. I remember that I wrote and wrote and wrote. Calls for lunch and dinner went unheeded. Obviously, I was not hungry or thirsty for food or water. Calls that it was my turn to do the dishes were ignored.

There was something that held me spellbound to the chair. I could not free myself from its grip. I had to pour it all out of me so that I could go and eat and so that I could help around the house or get in the biggest trouble of my young life. Even the thought of getting in trouble did not cause the hunger to jump out of my being and find someone else into whom to land. It has never left me, which is the reason I am speaking to you today.

Can you relate to that type of hunger?  

Regardless of your profession, I am certain there is something that causes you to yearn until you quench it. Regardless of time and space and the distance you try to place between you and that hunger, it will not let you go until you take an action to satisfy it.

I remember that the story I wrote when I was eight was about a little girl, but I did not know her age. I did not know what the word genre was, whether it was a short story or a novel, did not have a title for it at that time, and I do not know what happened to that story. It is still in bits and pieces in my head. I mourn its loss sometimes. Maybe I will gather those bits and pieces in my head and grow them into a semblance of that story.

That hunger is like many of Langston Hughes’ poems about dreams. He must have had a hunger that would not leave him alone even as he was transported from one relative to another until he became of age and made good on his hunger. In “Dream Deferred,” he asked specific questions about dreams: do they dry up like a raisin in the sun, turn into a syrupy sweet, or does a dream explode?

langstonHughes_dreamDeferred

I have lived life as best as I could with the hunger suppressed inside me like a pebble in my shoe. It was there when I finished graduate school and wrote for publications. I gave in to that hunger and wrote with abandon for those three years I went home to Nigeria. Then I ignored it. It rose like the phoenix. It was there when I got married. It was there during pregnancy, and I wrote poems about my unborn baby. It was there when divorce and single-parenthood arrived, and it kept me company. It was there when my parents passed away, but I was too immersed in grief to write. It was there when my daughter grew up and got married.

It is there now, center stage, and has refused to be kicked to the curb any longer.

My_Laptop

I am slowly and surely giving it the time and attention it has so rightly deserved, but I want to pause today and reach out to you to hear about your hunger.

What is it that you have tried to suppress that has left an ache, a yearning in your deepest self?

Have you started feeding that hankering, done anything with it? To it?

Share your situation with me there in LinkedIn, here, or elsewhere in social media. I would love to find out what your hunger is.

Thank you so much for allowing me to intrude into your peacetime today. I am most honored for your time and attention. Remain blessed.

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***Photo credit: http://www.CANVA.com (First three pictures)

**Photo credit: www.google.com (Langston Hughes’ poem)

*Photo credit: francesohanenye (Flower and laptop)

I Thank My J-Crew and Other VIPs for This Journey

One advantage of growing old or growing older is that the aged have a different vantage point than those much younger. I started my second Master’s degree at Southern New Hampshire University much older, what is called the non-traditional student. As such, I collected years of living and writing under my belt and amassed a wealth of literary pieces and launched several blogs. I have been working on Daughters of the Soil and hope to have it released as soon as possible in 2018. I had intended to release it in 2016, but a personal technology upheaval caused a change in my plans, and I am happy in retrospect.

500_F_49637851_0hRQqpHePGR8qevqJO7bfPISs3IMpJZgI want to pause today and acknowledge my exponential growth gained from the people I call my “J-Crew,” authors and authorpreneurs whose first names begin with “J.” Thank you, Joanna Penn, Jonathan Gunson, Joel Friedlander, Jon Bard, JA Konrath, Jeff Goins, Julie Andrews (dame and Hollywood icon), Judy Hedlund, Jane Friedman, Julie Isaac, and James J. Jones, to name a few. I am grateful to Derek Murphy, Nick Stephenson, Mark Dawson, Derek Doepker, Ty Cohen, Laura Backes, BookBaby, Hazel Edwards (who coined “authorpreneur,” a word that describes me well), and IngramSparks. I subscribed to their websites/blogs for the last eight years and downloaded truckloads of wisdom. Most of these people and companies gave access to their intellectual creations freely to rising authors/poets who are on their way to self-publication. I will pay forward such unparalleled generosity.

This appreciation blog will be incomplete without expressing my gratitude to my workshop organizers and graduate school instructors, professors who pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. Foremost is Gregory A. Fraser, Ph.D. (University of West Georgia), whose advanced creative writing course was my first graduate level poetry course. It was so intensive that I wanted more and wrote a poem about it titled “I Tasted Poetry.” From his class and from our class discussions sprang the name of my publishing company, Beautiful Parts Publishing Group, LLC., which is still work in progress. Wanting more, I started the formal journey into my Masters’ in Creative Writing and English at Southern New Hampshire University where I engaged in rigorous writing and bare-bone critiques at the hands of Dr. Sandra Dutton, Sarah Shotland, Dr. Douglas McFarland, Professor Conine, and Mrs. Tiffany Hawk.

Fortunately, I gathered so much expertise about the publishing industry in the last few years that I know I am where I ought to be. I have founded a company that will allow me to realize my dreams of writing and being publishing. Let’s just say that rejection letters from traditional publishers have a way of inspiring a writer to take an alternative course of action. I have networked with other publishers to barter services. They review my manuscripts, and I offer editing, revising, and proofreading services.

I joined both online and face-to-face writing communities. The online ones are through Meet Up, but we assemble on Saturday mornings to critique each other’s works and to offer feedback. I am no longer protective of my work. I attend workshops at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and at Inprint Houston and at any venue where my novels will be workshopped. At Inprint, I had the fortune to work with Claire Anderson and Conor Bracken, winner of the 2017 (Robert) Frost Place annual poetry competition.

I have been published in these outlets: as a contributor for The Guardian Newspaper (Nigeria’s equivalent of The New York Times), freelancer for Yahoo! Voices (defunct), ghostwriter for Textbroker, editor for Georgia Poetry Society (and my poem was included in the anthology, Reach of Song), columnist for Atlanta Parent magazine, poem published in Georgia’s Best Emerging Poets (November 2017), and academic papers in the Journal of Social and Natural Science Research. I maintain several blogs, one of which (https://literarynomad11.wordpress.com) was featured online as “a literary blog to explore.” I hold separate Master of Arts degrees in Journalism and in Creative Writing, and I teach English composition/rhetoric and literature at a college and at a high school, respectively.

I attend writing and author conferences anywhere and anytime I can afford it, mostly when I was unemployed and underemployed. Let’s acknowledge that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. Because of the loss of my teaching job of 19 years, I propelled myself to fill the void and restore my writing life, which I started when I was only eight years old. Still, I have spent the last eight years immersed in the science and art of my craft of writing and in the unfamiliar territories of publishing and promotion/ marketing.

I am ready for my name to grace the cover of a book. To that end, I purchased 100 ISBN’s, several bar codes, and obtained several LCCN’s (free). I have connected with companies who will begin pre-publication advertising as soon as I finish editing Daughters of the Soil, a mystery novel that combines police procedural, fantasy, and thriller. I have grown in the journey toward the publication of this novel by enlisting other professionals. More so now than ever, an urgency has brought the project into a sharper focus, but my laptop crashed during fall of 2016, and I lost almost everything I created since I obtained my first Masters (in Journalism). It cost me thousands in hours and dollars for a data retrieval company to restore my intellectual creations. I had to go on a religious retreat to ask God to save my sanity. Somethings cannot be replaced.

I thank all my English teachers in Nigerian who planted the seeds that germinated into the love of reading, writing, spelling, and English in general. Thank you especially to my Class Five (12th grade) high school English teacher (Reverend Akomah) who forced me to rise to the challenge of writing a poem about a frog and refused to allow me to give up. After writing the poem, I came to love poetry and to realize that inherent in a frog are many figures of speech. For example, its sound is an onomatopoeia. Its description is an imagery. You can imagine what a valuable lesson that assignment was.

I thank these very generous and very important people from the bottom of my heart. I hope my published work will deliver a clear voice that yields a crisp harvest.

Response to Literature: A Recipe

Link to image: http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/favicon.ico

sixminutes.dlugan.com

Following the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart) principle, here is the simplest recipe you need to follow when responding to any piece of literature (regardless of age or academic level). Blessed with so many nicknames (book review, literary criticism, literary critical analysis, response to literature, analytical review, literary interpretation, and so on), there is, indeed, a worthwhile dissimilarity among all the aforementioned explorations, from the simplest (book review) to the most complex (literary critical analysis). Regardless of your preference for moniker, your job is to help a potential reader to get a glimpse into a piece of literary work before he/she decides to read it. You are the reviewer.

  • Needless to say, before you engage in response to literature, you must read that novel to the end of it.
  • Break your critique into three major parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Pull the audience in with gripping sentences in the introduction.
  •  Summarize the story within the first few paragraphs with beginning, middle, and ending; however, you should mesh the summary into your analysis (preferable).
  • From your notes (taken during the reading), identify any interesting situation that caused very strong reactions in you: What inspired you? Confused you? Surprised you?
  • Include and organize these reactions; discuss each major thought in each paragraph in the body of your review and link them to the events in the order they occur in the story.
  • Give insight and make judgment so the reader can determine your feeling about the story: like it, don’t like it, or lukewarm. Support each opinion.
  • Identify elements of literature and comment on them in your writing as they pertain to the story.
  • Identify those figurative expressions the author used in the story; comment on his/her style, ingenuity, creative playfulness, and such, as they pertain to the story.
  • Allow your voice to come through clearly; showcase your style.
  • Employ the six traits of writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.
  • Paint colorfully vivid pictures with figures of speech, action verbs, and descriptive adjectives.
  • Quote the author’s most salient and moving phrases/words.
  • Place a check beside the bulleted requirements above as you complete each one.
  • Edit and revise your work with the proofreading/copy-editing guidelines.
  • Pre-grade your work physically; before submitting it to an instructor or for publication, repair any defects that might impact negatively your grade or your reputation.

I look forward to reading your literary criticism, and criticism can be constructive. Thanks for stopping by today.