Thursday, February 15, 2007

Camy Tang Interview and the Q of CPs:
AKA Mir Screws Up & Hopes to do Better

I was reading an interesting interview with everybody's fave ACFW contest coordinator, Camy Tang, whose first novel comes out this September.

In it, I realized that she hit on something that may apply to me, even though I'm not at all like Camy, who is energetic and organized and can multi-task like nobody's business.

I think, maybe, I don't need a crit group, so much as I need a crit partner or two who are doing my genre. And there is a distinction. There is a greater level of committedness and closeness in "partners" as opposed to "groups."

I've been part of two crit groups only. One is the current one that I created and is short-term and focused on ONE thing only. Come April, it's history.

The other one I was invited to join and it was formed by three other Christian women. One, I'm sure, will have a book contract this year. She's that good. One shares my passion for fantasy, which is nice. One is more interested in secular and literary level fiction, and has been working hard on big-theme novels. I'm a genre girl all the way.

While I respect them and their particular gifts, we sort of faded away in the last few months. And definitely, I slacked off. I can't blame anyone else for where I screwed up. I kept putting stuff off and off until it was, basically, forgotten. Round the holidays, I totally flaked on two crits. (And don't think that's not hard to type.) I have no idea why, other than maybe my brain can only handle X number of commitments at one time, so I attend to whichever one is screaming loudest at me and prodding me with emails and notes.

And I don't do intimacy easily. I'm guarded. I'm private. I'm reclusive. I'll yap here about stuff, but notice how much is not really me spilling my guts. This is not a confessional blog. But I've always been a type of person who can only handle small doses of friendship. I've never psychically been able to handle too much closeness at once, or too many friends at once. I get tired. Soul pooped. Mind weary.

If I have to give attention to B, then I lose the energy to give attention to A, and if C comes along and begs for time, it gets taken away from B, and A might be tucked to the far reaches of my back brain until A taps me on the shoulder.

It's a personal flaw, I suppose. Hubby seems to be the same way. Maybe it's the INTJ thing, since we're both that personality type.

Thing is--and I may be wrong, but I may be right--I think I need one partner who is just doing the sort of thing I am, adult SF. That way, we can brainstorm together and know when to say, "Oh, that's a tired fantasy" or "that's a stock sci-fi character" or "that plot has been done a zillion times since Asimov."

I don't need much in the way of grammatical help or line editing. I need

1. a butt-kicker for accountability, because I really do have that sort of slothful streak and a thyroiditis-impaired memory and am easily distracted
2. someone who can help me with the big picture--plot events, structure, tone, voice, density of prose, refining my style
3. someone who will not get ruffled over my tendency toward bluntness
4. someone who will get that I'm a mixture of confidence and hope alternating with total self-doubt and depression. Some days, weeks, months, I can't bring myself to write cause I feel like a no-talent hack. Other days, I feel as if I could write bestseller. It's a freaky schizo thing. It takes someone with a gift of patience and a sound sense of humor to deal with that. Or maybe someone who feels the same schizo way.

In return, I'd want to give those same things--bigger picture brainstorming, adding density and weight to prose, sharpening voice--so that when we come together, we might phone up and delve for hours into the finer and deeper aspects of craft. Or just call me and tell me to get my ass in gear, and vice versa. I also need someone not afraid to tell me when I've written sh*t, and, more importantly, know how to guide me into fixing it so it's no longer feces.

I guess that's more partnership than grouping, huh?

And yet, I think it's valuable to have crits, in groups, in duos, in whatever form. It keeps you focused on improving your own work and, as you give back to someone else, you do a good literary deed. I put a lot of hours into giving feedback every week. Some weeks, it gets really mentally exhausting. But I still feel that it's worth it.

In the meantime, I apologize for being a doodyhead and spacing out on my first crit group. We sorta sloped downward in how frequently we communicated. I know I did. Sometimes, groups unravel. But in this case, I didn't contribute to keeping it together. Mea culpa.

I'd still root for each of those gals to fulfill their dreams. And if they wanted my op on something, I'd do my best to give it, which, honestly, I haven't in the last few months, cause a few other things intruded and stole away my focus. I'm not that great at multi-tasking, I've discovered. Not anymore.

So, maybe I'm the type who doesn't do groups well. Who needs to email one on one.

Camy's right, I think. You just pray until that right partner(s) come along.

And while you wait, you try to do better and not to ditz out on your crit pals. Sorry Meg, Sally, and Suz.


Edited to Add: Whoops. I actually am a member of a third crit group. That's a much looser one, and since we haven't been active since fall last year, it slipped my mind. It's a poetry crit group, speculative poetry. That's less onerous, since most of the poems are short. This is over at THE SWORD REVIEW, and it's not exclusive. Anyone can join and participate as they like. So, if you write speculative poetry, drop by.


SolShine7 said...

LOL Mir! Sometimes being a writer can be la vida loca. You had me going "mmm hmm" too many times.

I can get scatty at times too. You wrote: "I get tired. Soul pooped. Mind weary." hehe, I can feel that way too.

I've praying and asking God to send me a writing mentor, kinda like a Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, but who can really kick-butt with words and teach me all that "wax on, wax off" stuff about writing and the publishing industry. And I want a woman, not an old guy.

I found this post very encouraging. I'll be praying that you find your partner (that's if my I'm not too scatty when I pray).

Josh said...

Mir, if you're ever wanting someone to throw stuff at and say, "Whaddya think?" or need someone to pester you into meeting a deadline, feel free to email me. I've enjoyed opportunities to do that sort of thing before with other writing friends, and I have had a few stories be saved from becoming pulp by being looked at by those same friends ("friends" not meaning buddy buddies who nod and say they love every word I write, but those who are blunt and let me know when it sucks, which for the first few drafts is much of the time). Like you, I appreciate when someone points out serious flaws in the story and motivates me to fix it.

Anyways, I know the feeling and how much this kind of situation can boost anyone's writing. Just wanted to let you know that I'm available, I suppose.

Mirtika said...

Sol, as someone who believes in the power of prayer, I do very much request it and thank you for it.

Josh, you're a doll. I will certainly keep this in mind. I would offer to return the favor, but I'd need to qualify that with: I offer to return the favor after April 30. :)


Josh said...

The offer is open anytime. I hope the rest of the crit group wraps up well for you.

Camy Tang said...

Mir!!!! Thanks for the mention of my interview. You always make me seem so much smarter than I really am. :) Muah.

I can totally relate to your needs for a crit partner. That's the ideal. It won't always come along exactly that way, but even a crit partner who's close is gold. Platinum. With diamonds!

I'll be praying, too! I guess that's all we can do for each other--pray God sends the right people in our orbit.

Selena said...

Mir, I bet there are a ton of people who would want to be your crit partner (me included). Your problem is going to be finding someone who is as good a writer as you are.

I doubt I would do you much good, but I would be happy to read and provide feedback on anything you wanted to send my way.

P.S., I just noticed that your poem made the top ten in the Preditors and Editors poll!