Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Fricassee

Have you every diagrammed a sentence? I can still remember my eighth grade English teacher filling the entire blackboard with complicated diagrams of compound-complex sentences.  I can still hear the sound of the chalk hitting the board, can still see the chalk dust flying.

Very cool, sentence diagramming.  In fact, if you can correctly diagram a complicated sentence, you've got a COMPLETE grasp on sentence structure.  It's an excellent skill (and one that I don't claim to have mastered).

Yes, there's an analogy in all this.

Each of us has our own "diagram", as it were, of the people who have influenced us along the way.  From the first person who said, "You write well!" to the first-prize win in the seventh grade writing contest, to the first request for a partial manuscript.  Everyone has a role, and our journey would look vastly different if even ONE name were removed.

I can't make a diagram here.  But I can list some highlights from my own journey:

1.  My third grade English teacher, who helped me compile a collection of poems and short stories to present to the school library at the end of the year.

2.  My sister, who listened to me read pages of my diary-of-a-nineteenth-century-girl-who-sounded-alarmingly-like-Laura-Ingalls, and whose pages I listened to as well. (Hundreds of handwritten pages!)

3.  DAVE, who read several chapters of my very first novel and taught me, patiently, that I had no idea what "point of view" meant.

4.  MY AGENT FROM HELL, whose nightmare of a role led to the kick-in-the-butt I needed to really LEARN the industry--and ultimately land an agent who was right for me.

5.  ELIZABETH, a then-assistant at an agency whom I randomly emailed for advice about extricating myself from the AGENT FROM HELL, simply because I liked the sound of her bio.  (And she gave me gracious, helpful advice.)

6.  JODI, whose first critique of my work was, as you already know, the catalyst of my moving from "consciously incompetent" to "consciously competent".

7.  LAUREN, who understood my story, requested revisions, and ultimately passed on offering representation.  She has been an integral, irreplaceable part of my journey.

8.  BETH, who showed me what was broken.

9.  JOSH.  Well, yeah.

If I sat down with a twelve-by-eighteen sheet of paper and some colored pencils, my diagram would be more complex than the simple list above.  So many voices of encouragement (and discouragement, too); so many pieces to fit together!  I should really sit down and do it some day.

Your turn!  Who has influenced your journey?  There are probably dozens of names.  But if you could choose the top three, who would they be?

Loving this journey! I know you are, too.

Well, most days. *grin*


  1. 1) My tenth grade English teacher who told me my short story assignment should be published.
    2) My college English professor who told me my writing sucked, but that I showed potential.
    3) This guy I was dating online who, after reading a few chapters of my first attempt at a novel, told me "You should be writing all the time." (I married him a few months later.)

  2. Ooo, fun! And there's no way I can pick only 3. That's about as easy as writing a 150-word kissing scene. :-P

    1. Mrs. Laviolette, my 2nd grade teacher who taught me to write and Ms. Leslie, my 9th grade teacher who made me admit I could write.
    2. A guy named Tony who gave me my first job as a writer.
    3. AuthoressAnon, whose web site changed my entire perspective about critiquing, querying and getting an agent.
    4. Donald Maass, James Bell, Blake Snyder and Michael Hauge, whose books/lectures taught me everything I know about plotting and structure.
    5. Sara Kendall and Joanna Volpe, who picked my book out of a slush pile and turned it into something more wonderful than I could imagine.

  3. Oh, I love this!

    1) My 7th grade English teacher, who told me I was a writer.

    2) My friend Ellie and my first Beta, who told me what worked and what didn't.

    3) Deidre Knight, who read one page for a contest entry and wanted to read more.

  4. why, you did, dahling! :D <3

  5. 1.) Mom, who always read my dark stories despite all the gore and over-fancy words.
    2.) College writing professor, who hated fantasy stories, read mine, then tore it to pieces in front of everyone (awful story, but not b/c it was fantasy). Most thought I'd drop out... ha, I loved criticism.
    3.) Beta readers for TLCC, who provided me a boost of confidence to keep swimming.
    4.) LTM's answer.
    5.) Joan, for believing in me and pushing me to be better.

  6. My mother, who let me read what I wanted, even if it was "too old" for me.
    My high school English prof, who made us write essays in the style of Hemingway one week, then Joyce or Poe the next.
    Anna, who has been in the bottom right corner of my screen the whole time, egging me on, being honest about my run-on sentences, and laughing when my cat sits on the keyboard and sends "swsefiooooooooooooosfdiiiiicvsdfffv" at least once a week.

  7. You have the number 2 on your list twice, so really you included 9 people in your list, Authoress. Can I do the same since 3 is so few?

    1. My mother who started a writing club for me so I would have a place to share my stories.
    2. Anna B. in the writing club whose stories were infinitely better than mine and, because I was jealous, inspired me to write better than I ever thought I could.
    2. My older brother, the programmer, who practiced his computer skills by writing me a program that would keep track of all my character files I was making.
    3. My cousin Sarah who has really been my sister, best friend, and kick-in-the-butt honest critiquer for many years.

    That WAS hard to keep to just a few people. Thanks for helping me realize there were so many people involved in making me into the writer I am today. It's very encouraging.

  8. Oh my gosh I am SO fixing that...

  9. Warning. My list is the equivalent of watery soup:
    1. My immediate family, who taught me to love reading, but had no higher ambitions for me than bilingual secretary.
    2. My 8th grade English teacher who chose two of my poems to publish in the school "literary" magazine. She actually seemed enthusiastic about my writing.
    3. Two of five editors (at the same publisher), who acted as if they were happy to work with me.
    Maybe I work better--or at least, stay persistent--without encouragement. Or maybe I truly don't know when to quit :-)

  10. 1. My grandmother, who kept a diary every day of her life. For 89 years. At a young age, I learned that words matter.

    2. A college professor, who read "the best" exam essay aloud to the class. Chills ran up my spine when I realized he was reading MY WORDS.

    3. Shelley Pearsall, winner of the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction. She took the time to email me after our writer's group. "Your response to the writing prompt would make a great opening for a middle grade novel." Me? Write an entire novel? Thanks, Shelley. For igniting a spark lit by my grandmother some thirty years ago.

  11. I'm already late for picking up my kids, but I had to say THANKS for reminding me of the ups and downs- i'd forgotten about your agent from hell episode. I needed an inspiration today- and you gave it. Thanks again.

  12. Ooh! I love diagramming sentences! :)

    1). My best friend who didn't laugh when I said "we should write soemthing sometime."

    2). Faith Hunter, an UF author, who has taken the time to comment on some of my stuff.

    3). The people at MW who are encouraging and who have taught me most of the stuff I know about writing.

    I never took a writing course in college, never thought about writing much until I was in grad school I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I figured that I couldn't be an artist (in my case a writer) because I was a girl, and so I dated artists. Then I stopped dating artists and decided I wanted to be one. :)

  13. You're supposed to diagram sentences? Go figure.
    This took much thinking, but I'll try.

    1. My mom, who took me to junk stores and let me spend my entire allowance on used books, and let me read anything I wanted, and who always encouraged me to keep pencil and paper on my night stand.

    2. My brother, who will surely be published before me, and who shares my competitive nature.

    3. Ms. Cosmic, English 101 Professor, who read all my assignments to the class and who encouraged me to take my writing seriously. I still struggle with this.

  14. know how to make me think! :)

    1. My 6th grade math teacher, who caught be writing in class and then told me it was good (and that she never wanted to catch me doing it again).

    2. My friend Larry

    3. ALL of my betas

    4. Oh, and of course, Authoress, for making me famous. ;)

  15. I've vague recollections of my English teacher reading out one of my short stories (I've sadly lost it since then). I remember it was more of an embaressment than anything to hear it being read, but the class was awed.

    So really, I've only two I can name:

    My aunt, who has always been dead honest no matter my 'tantrums' and weathered through all the muck-ups I wrote late at night (it's amazing how a jumbled sentence makes perfect sense at 1am :D )

    My fiancé, who, beyond suffering my blathering most nights for the last seven years and encouraging me at each step, also gives me the tricky questions I need to make my world building seem logical.

  16. 1) Good books like the Harry Potter books, the LOTR books, and other great ones.
    2) A simple way of writing online (Google Docs) without anybody seeing my work.
    3) Umm... I dunno what else

    But what about as a developer? I have some providers to thank...

    1), which helped me out with website creating.
    2) GoDaddy, which hosts my domain (
    3) Blogger, which runs my blog (

    LOL :D