Thursday, October 18, 2012

Second Chances

Yesterday, as I was walking to my advanced Composition 1 class to give a midterm, I was stopped outside my building by three students.  I had recently given all these students second chances. 

My students will tell you I'm tough when it comes to grading, and deadlines are deadlines.  However, I do have a heart, and occasionally I allow students a second chance, when I feel their situation warrants such a move.

Two of these students were in my online World Lit course.  They were active in the beginning, then completely inactive for two weeks.  The online course is only seven weeks long.  They came to my office, and explained that they thought they could drop the class, but found out they couldn't drop the class, and they needed the credits.  Could they please rejoin the course and make up all the work???

I was skeptical, but I gave them very strict deadlines -- like finish one unit's worth of work in one day -- and told them if they didn't keep the deadlines they would fail the course.  I was happily surprised when they dove in and did a superb job for the rest of course.  So they saw me yesterday, and ran over to give me a handmade zippered small bag - see picture.

The other student also needed a second chance.  She had experienced a plethora of personal problems, and asked if she could make up the missing essays.  I also extended a second chance to her, but she decided to drop the course instead.

All three students were grateful to have a second chance, though the outcomes differed.  I will continue to extend a second chance, in very limited special circumstances, to needy students.  I'm thankful for the second chances I've gotten in life!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Analyzing An Agent's Advice

Wednesday I received another rejection from an agent.  This one hurt a bit more, because this agent had asked to see a fuller synopsis, showing some level of interest in my novel.  The closer we are to someone, the more it hurts when we are rejected.  I was in great anticipation of her response, and hoping she would ask to see my full manuscript.  But instead, she wrote that she "didn't connect" with my story as she had hoped.  And she felt that the dual storyline lacked momentum.

What were my reactions?  She's right and my manuscript stinks?!  She's wrong and she doesn't appreciate brilliance?!  There must be a middle ground here. I varied from one extreme to the other before deciding that maybe there are ways to alter the storyline, to improve the tension and momentum leading up to the denouement.   I can give Sadie a more prominent role earlier on, and show her storyline apart from Joanna (if you don't know what I'm writing about you'll have to read the book!).  Joanna is Equiano's daughter, and Sadie is her first cousin, Equiano's sister's (Oluchukwu) daughter.

Without knowing if this is de rigueur (two French words in one post - my sister is in France and I'm feeling French today!), I sent a reply to her declination, and asked for more advice.  I mentioned in my reply that I am 'constrained by historicity' and she picked up on that.  Here is part of what she wrote: 
                      To be quite honest, I think my difficulty here is fairly endemic. As you say, you are
                      constrained by historicity. I find the fictionalized
                      history area quite troublesome generally, because for
                      me at least, fiction needs to have its own organic
                      shape and momentum, i.e. qualities that come from
                      construction rather than depiction and for me,
                      with its predestined structure, the historical account
                      often loses out. Truth or truth likeness is not a virtue
                      in itself - unless you're writing non-fiction.

Help me out here - is this agent predisposed against historical fiction?  Do you like historical fiction?

P.S.  The answer to the previous post:  Jonah!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Unresolved endings

Do you like a neatly tied up ending, or an unresolved ending?  Usually, I like resolution.  Especially in books, I like to know what is happening, or will happen, to the characters.  Jane Austen has nice resolved endings in her books -  the heroine marries the wealthy, handsome man.  There is nothing I hate more than getting to the end of a very lengthy book, 400 pages or more, only to find I have no idea what will happen to the protagonist, and there is no sequel.  I feel like screaming!

In short stories, the endings are often unresolved.  The form lends itself to unresolved endings, and I can stomach them a bit better in a short story.  But my favorite ending in a short story is the surprise ending - like O. Henry, or Jeffrey Archer.  Archer is the master of surprise endings.  He has a few short story collections, and one is entitled
A Twist in the Tale. That is a great read!  You will gasp out loud at the endings in that book.

There is one book in the bible that ends with a question.  It is a rhetorical question, but a question nonetheless.  Can you tell me which book it is?  You can leave a comment below.