What I Want From Fellow Writer Critiquers

When you write, you notice other writers. You enjoy friendships with other readers. You may be in a writers group. When you write, these relationships are important because you’re going to seek out people to read your works in progress.

Generally you can ask for certain things before people read to critique. Some people ask for very detailed suggestions such as comma placements and misspelled words. Some don’t have any idea what they hope to get by sharing. Here is what I have learned about what I want from critiquers:

  • Give me a variety of readers. Don’t just seek out other writers like you. If the readers like it despite not liking the genre, you can feel good.
  • Tell me how you feel about the protagonist. If readers hate the person leading the story, they may not care about reading to the end.
  • Give me a guess on what happens next. When a critiquer reads just a piece of your work, it is a great opportunity for you to see if you are misleading your audience enough or if the plot is too obvious.
  • Tell me what strikes you the most. I’m curious what impressions critiquers are left with. I want to know what the work leaves people with, or what they feel is missing.

Taking time to let people read your work is a welcome break from creating and editing it on your own. Getting critiqued can point out flaws you might be too close up to see. Hearing others’ perspectives on the story can help you to work on clarifying things for your audience. There is no critique you must take, so why not listen with an open mind?

 

What is important to you from fellow critiquers?

 

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The Perfect Writer’s Desk

When a writer gets to pick out a new desk, we may want things that are different from other normal desk wielding people.

old desk

My old desk felt confined and too shabby to inspire me. When I really sat down to write, I liked to take my computer to an open table instead. This led me to believe my next desk should be open and with more space to spread out.

To begin my search I looked for used desks. Used have the benefit of coming pre-assembled, pre-historied, and pre-depreciated.

Yet, writers can be practical too. An open desk with elbow room would be difficult to get up the stairs. Good options were not close to home, and logistics of getting help with the loading the desk into a truck narrowed down the choices. I didn’t want to sacrifice desk top space or drawer space to help keep clutter out of the way of my writing supplies just to find something easy to move. I also didn’t want to have to wait too long to write.

So, I began to look for new options that would ship in a box and not require me to use a truck.

Never before have I bought my own furniture and it was difficult for me to decide without the limitations of seeing what is available used and local.

I knew having the printer handy would be important to have paper copies to critique. The finish was up to me entirely, and I even researched matching bookshelves to make sure I could accommodate all my reference materials nearby while still looking nice in the room. I wanted open shelves with easy access and closed shelves for things I didn’t need as often and didn’t want to have as eye sores. In the end, I also picked a desk with a hanging file drawer large enough for each story idea in its own file.

 

Author Ashley Crookham's writing desk in progress
new desk in progress

 

 

 

The final product is something I’m so happy with. Everything has been convenient to reach, I can keep binders and books open as I write, and there is enough storage for me to limit things in view to things that aid me in my focus.

What is important to you in a desk?

Inside a Writer’s Life: My Sugar Glider

For the first time in a while, I don’t have to hide the fact that I have an exotic pet. I thought I’d celebrate that fact with a post to talk about my experiences keeping a Author Ashley Crookham sugar glider Elske sugar glider.

In October 2011, my mother decided to get a sugar glider. She called to tell me about them and enthused that I would enjoy owning one too. Off to the store I went, never suspecting that I would be the only one of us who would go through with it. I called to tell her the good news. We were in the same boat. We could pet sit for each other. Our sugar babies could grow up together.

“What did you name yours?” I asked.

“Oh, I changed my mind.”

I paused. “That’s a strange name.”

To start you need one or two animals, a cage, heat rock, sugar glider pellet food, and a bonding pouch you wear around your neck. The pouch zips up to ensure your new fury baby doesn’t escape during the first few months while you love it and it struggles to get away from you.

 

When I tell people my pet’s name, they usually think I mean “Alice”. I correct them, then they ask how I came up with “Elske”.

“It came from a book.”

“What’s the book called?”

“Elske.”

(If you haven’t heard of Cynthia Voigt, now you know one series of hers I recommend.)

 

The first weeks were rough. Sugar gliders don’t have many defenses but a loud chiggering noise is one of them. Beata beata beata. It still makes me jump. Grabbing her from her warm nest of fleece and shoving her into the pouch while she holds on with opposable thumbs feels a bit rude.

Sugar gliders are nocturnal, marsupials, and, in my opinion, cuter as adults than they are as joeys. They have long tails and skin between their limbs that helps them glide from a high place to a lower place. They eat insects in the wild and enjoy sweet foods when they can find them. In captivity, they can live 12-15 years.

Eventually she grew comfortable with me. She stays in her cage when she’s not in a pouch, but I do let her play. I can stuff a blanket under the crack below the door and she explores the room while I write. She climbs around me, especially near my neck and ear. She even comes when I call her name, although if she’s having too much fun she might run away when I try to scoop her up. You must keep sugar gliders away from water. They cannot swim. The toilet lid is always down when she’s out.

She travels well. While she’s in the pouch she gets an apple slice to munch on for food and liquid. She sleeps during the day so she’s very docile when I take her places. When I’m in a good spot, I let her on the ground to pee or poop (she lets me know she has needs when she gets squirmy). Afterwards, she jumps back on me and crawls right into her bag. I’ve taken her to work with me and she does great all day.

 

Elske the sugar glider’s cage

Over the seven years we’ve been together, I’ve added to her things. Barrels of monkeys, a quiet running wheel, pouches I have sewn or hand tied, fuzzy bags. I have a hamster cage I use when we’re moving and when I’m cleaning her cage.

Elske has been to multiple jobs, parties, volunteering at a LTC facility, and even writers group meetings. People who don’t like mice tend to react negatively. People who like soft tiny animals say they will get one.

Then again, so did my Mom.

Elske the sugar glider

Co-Authoring

One day a member of my writers group shared a sad story about a beloved pet. The symptoms she experienced, shared by many humans and for unknown reasons, seemed like an intriguing story idea to me.

My fellow writer and I began to flesh it out. “What ifs” sprung up, setting molded around it, and we each envisioned a character from which to view our fictional world. We decided to co-write a story. This is what I have learned about the process so far:

  1. You must agree on how quickly you want the story to come together. In our case, we are not rushing each other in any way. We both have other projects going on and this story is one we can come back to only when we choose to.
  2. You must agree on how much of the story each writer contributes. In our case, we are taking turns with chapters.
  3. You must be flexible. One new idea can mean a lot of work to edit what has already been written. When we agree to go a different way with the story, we must both go back to keep the information consistent.

I’ve enjoyed seeing our story come together from two writers with very different styles and ideas. This might be a long-term work but we will both be proud when it is complete.

 

What have your experiences been with co-authoring?

 

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library front window
Kurt’s actual typewriter

I could not be so close to a museum for Kurt Vonnegut and not take a visit. In a college ethics class, I did my final project on his secular humanist beliefs. He is someone I would have been lucky to know. I read Slaughterhouse Five before the short trip into Indianapolis which I believe adds much to the understanding of the displays in his Memorial Library. To see his struggles as an author, successes in his dreams, personal challenges, and sparks of creativity in person were comforting and inspiring.

Author Ashley Crookham in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
replica of Kurt’s study

 

Have you visited any good museums dedicated to authors or writing?

Indiana

When I found out I had a chance to visit Indiana, I needed to look on the map to see how to get there. I began to research fun things to do. For this I use Pinterest and  http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/.

Author Ashley Crookham wall map

I enjoyed my time there, including a trip to a not-for-profit coffee shop where I was able to sit and catch up on my journals.

Author Ashley Crookham cold brew coffee

Now that I know I will be moving to this state, there are other things I would like to find out. How does cost of living compare, for example? If I could visit again I would go to the local library, the local gym, and the local grocery store. Online I have researched things like Meetup groups (including writers’ groups) available to me to join. I’ve added Parks and Recreation newsletters to my e-mail subscriptions. So far things look promising.Author Ashley Crookham gas sign

What considerations do you make when moving to a new place?

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Kwerky Review

 

While editing “Elaty Riaf”, I used the Querkywriter keyboard someone had given to me as a gift. Here are my observations:

Positives:

  1. attractive
  2. keys make a nice clacking sound
  3. easy to use wirelessly with your computer
  4. you can sit things in the ledge at the top (such as photos to keep you motivated or notes to keep you oriented)
  5. reminds me of typing on my mother’s old typewriter as a child

Negatives:

  1. a bit high up for my wrists to sit comfortably
  2. the shift button got stuck constantly, making edits more laborious
  3. numbers are along the top only

Overall, I would not have bought this for myself and I prefer to use a wider, lower, quieter keyboard. The faulty shift key was not compensated for by the attractive typewriter appearance. I am glad I got a chance to make an informed decision about this product.

Have you used this before? Something similar? What did you think?