D.J. Niko’s Reviews > The Secret Language of Women
by Nina Romano (Goodreads Author)
D.J. Niko‘s review
The Important Role of Religion in Lemon Blossoms
When I was a young girl I studied with the cloistered nuns of Visitation Academy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I learned not only school subjects but also a great deal concerning the Roman Catholic Religion and Latin at the hands of this devout, spiritual community. An aside—I used some descriptions of the cloister grounds inside the walls and the “parlatorio” in my third book of the Wayfarer Trilogy, In America, but a tremendous amount more about the religion is incorporated in Lemon Blossoms.
After I finished the eighth grade of elementary school, my religious training continued during my first two years of high school when I attended Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island. I frequently participated at daily Mass, including responding in Latin to the priest as an altar boy because we didn’t have any. I made novenas, went on retreats, and even had a nun for a roommate! Three of us girls shared a room with this nun, who slept with a curtain drawn around her bed. She entered our room from the bathroom, after we were supposedly asleep, and after she’d had her bath. I will not divulge those long-ago secrets garnered in youth! I will say, however, that when we went home on weekends, I set up sleuth-type devices to find out if she ever riffled through our dresser drawers! Call me, Sherlock—she did!
When writing Lemon Blossoms, I sought out and interviewed the very learned Rev. Monsignor Frederick Brice various times with questions so that I would be correct in portraying my main character Angelica, a very zealous and overly religious girl at the beginning of the novel, and Padre Ruggeri, Angelica’s confessor and uncle.
I attended a neighborhood church and got to know the pastor Fr. Brice, who was retired only a few years ago and passed away last year at the age of eighty-five. He was pastor of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Lighthouse Point, Florida, for almost three decades, during the time that I sought his council.
In order to understand the significance of the vestments used during the Mass, I questioned this knowledgeable priest on many occasions. He was generous enough to also lend me several books and have a close look at his Breviary. These were enlightening sources to consult along with my several antique Missals, one of which I had used while attending Notre Dame. Fr. Brice was most kind and very accessible and even eager to discuss the prayers, the sacraments, the vessels, and the laws and liturgy of the church. Much of what I acquired from my discussions with this cleric is included in the novel Lemon Blossoms.
What’s so great about this book, is the fact that it’s a “NOW” situation set in the Big Apple.
Didn’t you always want to know what goes on behind the scenes of those medical TV shows? Reading M K Graff’s Death Unscripted gives a firsthand peek at how some of it gets done. The fact that Graff knows the medical profession comes through and made this such an interesting read and a seemingly REAL one.
This is a nicely paced cozy with a host of interesting characters, and one of my new personal favorites, Trudy Genova, an amateur sleuth. Graff’s mystery drew me in right from the beginning. The sparks set off between her mail character and the detective, add an interesting subtext. Graff’s settings, dialogue and plot have me begging to read her next installment in this new American series. Brava! I definitely “suspended my disbelief!
Getting the Most Out of Your Editor’s Feedback
Heeding the Call to Revise
by Amy McElroy
Revising a work to its essence challenges writers of every genre and manuscript length. Hiring an excellent developmental editor remains a crucial step in the writing process. Yet even though an editor or unbiased reader can often see the need for editorial changes, writers themselves can examine the reasons behind many of these “blind spots” and look for new ways to reduce them at an earlier stage, thereby allowing others to address deeper issues in their work.
As a writer, there’s a gnawing that comes when there’s a problem in my work. Maybe it’s a treasured phrase—what Faulkner called the difficulty in “killing our darlings.” Often there’s a thread I know will cause major work to rewrite as a result. Sometimes, there’s a whole separate book or essay tangled in our manuscripts.
As writers, we try to avoid the revision or the cut, the shuffle or restructure. But deep down, we know when we give it to our editor our gut will be reaffirmed. We will have to do the dirty work.
Improving our ability to revise lies in learning to trust those instincts, so we can make those painful changes ourselves. Then we can allow the person who sees the material next to take it to yet another level instead of wasting time on what we knew needed to be done in the first place.
Of course, sometimes, we truly don’t know what needs attention—how, when, or why to make a change—and it’s ok to ask for a second opinion. But the more we can learn to trust ourselves, the better the final product will be.
Here are some tips for revising:
At First, Just Don’t
After you finish the latest draft, put it away! Give yourself a significant chunk of time between drafts. We all must learn what that means for us, depending on the length of the manuscript, how long and how much focus we’ve given to it, how much we’ve neglected the rest of our lives. Regain some perspective. Step away long enough for the myopic focus with which you’ve been working to develop into a broader view. The next step requires it
Don Roff said, “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
So, when you pull it out, edit with the critical eye you would give to someone else’s work. You wouldn’t even know it if you were killing someone else’s darlings; they’d just look like any other words on the page. Don’t you owe your own writing the honesty & quality you’d give someone .
Grab the Mic
Speak out loud the major point or points you are trying to get across in the work. “This work shows . . . ” or “This story is about . . . ” Not a summary precisely, but more of an elevator pitch, main idea, or thesis. Using an actual microphone will help capture each attempt at this distillation of the work for later reference. Once the essence of the manuscript has been captured, use it in the next step of revision.
Make an Extra “Copy”
You can do the “old school” method by making an actual hard copy to chop up with scissors and rearrange with tape, or save the manuscript under a different file name and go through and delete or condense anything extraneous to your point.
Deleting material in our own work becomes easier when we know it’s all still there under some other file if we need it. More often than not, we’re happily surprised to find the condensed version reads better.
If you’re really struggling with how much to cut, make two new versions. Ask yourself which one reads better, so you’re free to be ruthless with the scissors or the cut and paste functions.
While you’re revising with the extra copy method, try bringing the theme of your work to the forefront. Obviously, this doesn’t necessarily mean begin and end by outright stating the theme, but understand that readers put much stock in beginnings and endings—even subconsciously.
What to Do with the Darlings?
Save the darlings you cut for another work. Create a document entitled “Darlings” on your computer for these clips. Name longer sections with easy to find labels or in folders related to their work of origin or another system that makes sense to you.
What to Do When You’re Done
Then DO give it away for an objective opinion to someone you trust—preferably a professional editor, certainly someone who knows how to edit. Ask for particular feedback on whether the theme holds together or if there are extraneous, distracting side issues.
Read the comments, then, put the work BACK in the drawer and sit with them awhile. Again, what’s “awhile” depends on how long the works is, how long your deadline is, how you are feeling about the work and the comments, etc.
Then, you can begin to consider what part of the feedback to heed and what
Now, you’re finally ready to begin a round of revision based on another person’s feedback. Because of your preliminary work, the theme will pull together more tightly for the reader just like you’d originally hoped. And having first traveled this long and tedious road of revision alone will yield treasures that will shine brighter in the final product than any darlings that may have been sacrificed along the way. Good luck and happy revising!
Amy is the Editorial Director and a writer for the popular website sweatpantsandcoffee.com. Her work has also recently appeared in Billfold,Noodle, ReWireMe, BlogHer, The Mid, RoleReboot, elephant journal, and The Manifest-Station. On her website, amyjmcelroy.net, you can find her writing craft blog—which was republished on Joel Friedlander’s Carnival of the Indies—and a list of her editorial services.
Homage to C. K. Williams
I am deeply saddened by the passing of a great poet, Charles Kenneth Williams, who always used his initials, C. K. before his last name.
At the 2008 Palm Beach Poetry Festival I was offered any poetry workshop I wanted to act as intern/assistant to a poet, due to seniority. I was older than any of the other younger interns, I had four college degrees, one of them, an MFA in Creative Writing, and I had published a poetry collection. I chose C.K. Williams, knowing his excellent work, and realizing the fantastic opportunity it afforded me to sit in his seminar for one week.
On January 21, 2008, I took notes from his lecture, made copies and passed them to all the fine poets in attendance. These notes follow below.
He was an instructor who pulled no punches, as I wrote on Facebook. He told you what he thought of the poem being critiqued, the musicality of the language, the word choice, whatever. This was a professor, who did not suffer fools. This was a teacher, who got up in the middle of one of our sessions and went next door to Claudia Emerson’s workshop, and asked her and her class to keep the noise and the laughter down to a dull roar—No, I don’t believe he said it quite that way, but when he returned to our classroom, the uproar from the class next to ours ceased.
He was a Princeton professor, who won major awards for his writing, and by his mere presence, made sure he received the respect due him. It was a great honor and privilege, but also a pleasure to see genius in action. He has left a formidable legacy, one that I am personally grateful for.
After our workshop time together, on the last day, CK signed three of his books that I had with me: Flesh and Blood, C. K. Williams Selected Poems, and C. K. Williams Collected Poems (hard copy). The one that he didn’t sign was C.K. Williams Poems 1963-1983, because apparently I’d left it home that day. Each book that he autographed was signed “for Nina,” and he wrote: “With warmth,” “Thanks for everything. Best regards,” “With warmth again,” but in Flesh and Blood he wrote these precious words to me: “for Nina warmth for your poems.” I’d like to think that all the poems I’ve written since then, conveyed that very sentiment of warmth.
Having lived in Italy for twenty years, I was very familiar with the work of Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish poet/writer, and read his works repeatedly throughout the years starting in 1970. Levi was a man who had been a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during the WWII, was arrested and survived the Holocaust, but then took his own life. It was beyond shocking to think that the author who wrote If This Be a Man, and endured the tortures of Hell in Auschwitz, could commit suicide. One day after reading some poetry of CK’s about Levi, we had a delightful one-on-one discussion after class. I am grateful for having had that incredible conversation, and cherish it along with the memory of my days with CK.
After the Poetry Festival, I drove him to the airport with Sharon Olds, another fine poet, and it tickled me to hear her call him, Charlie, but to me, he’ll always be CK.
Notes about revising from C K Williams 1/21/08 PBPF
(Nina’s Notes—take or leave, but this is what I garnered and gleaned—if you heard it differently—go with it.)
The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate (Paperback)
(Available on amazon.com for $9.59)
There is a kernel (an energetic spot) in each poem from which everything is variable and from which a poem can “re-grow” (into something new)
First of all in this seminar there will be no judgment (on work) these are experiments
Find the principles (which inform the work) and which will enable us to work with (the poem)
Find the principles and incorporate them (the unconscious principles)
Why did you write the poem? What was the impulse? The occasion?
What were the inspirations?
What seems to be inspired (in the work)? The magic?
Did you do justice to the inspiration and the impulse?
Who does the poem address? Why How? Is it a person? A character?
What is the tone?—conversational, natural, artificial, poetical, formal, heightened?
Is the “self” in the poem? Is this important? Represented enough to keep the reader reading on?
Poetical? Experiential? Is there expedience? Metaphor? Simile?
These serve as a means of interest. Is there plot? A display of information?
Drama has climax—does the poem? Where is it situated: the end or the beginning?
Not always a narrative
Diction (language) colloquial?
Compression vs. discursive
Narrative vs. logic
Irrational (unconscious) vs. rational (conscious)
Is there commitment?
Use of metaphor (aha! the light!) and simile
Music—most difficult to speak about with regards to free verse.
(stress, pulse, cadence, repetition—symphonic melody repeats)