Some Things Make it All Worthwhile

If you’re a writer you know we deal with a lot of angst, much of it self-imposed. Am I good enough? What if they hate my book? What if no one buys my books? Etc. Many the day I’ve questioned why I started down my unexpected path of writing fiction, but every now and then something so wonderful happens you stop questioning, for a while, why you ever became a writer.

It Started Last Summer

I met a good old southern boy in my Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop last June, and I was pretty critical of a scene in his MS we critiqued, as in, dude, if you’re going to write a rape scene make it horrific instead of bordering on hearts and flowers.

He was pretty critical of a scene in my MS as well, as in, if I took this book off the shelf at the store and opened to this scene, I’d put it right back. Hard to hear, but his point was valid (as was mine). The scene was thick and stodgy and heavy, but I came away with a solid idea of how to fix it–the point of a good critique.

We friended on Facebook, I participated in a poll to pick the cover of his debut novel, he gave me an idea for a poem, and I let him know when that poem placed second in a contest. A fairly typical social media friendship for a couple of writers who write very different stuff.

tys-print-coverBut, lo and behold, without prompting, he bought a copy of my novella, The Yellow Scarf. Unknown to me, he was intending to write a blog post on the place of the novella in literature today and sought examples to use in his post. To my surprise and delight, he used The Yellow Scarf as an example of a good novella. (To read his blog post, “Is the Novella the New Netflix?” click HERE.)





He Liked It!

I love every good review a reader of my work has posted. Some of them have made me proud, and some of them have made me shed a happy tear. But this review of The Yellow Scarf within the blog post was the most uplifting thing my writing career has experienced, even more uplifting than holding my first book in my hands.

The reviewer has an MFA and knows literature, and he said some amazing things about my novella. More than that sheepskin, he got what I was trying to say with that story. It resonated, and, frankly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do: Write a good story and have it stick with the reader.

And it’s all about the validation. Someone whose opinion I respect thought I did a good job, that I’m a good writer. That made my day. Hell, it made my year. My gratitude is undying–to my good ole boy and the author of the blog post and review, Kelsey Asher.

If you’re interested in how well you agree with this review, you can get your own copy of The Yellow Scarf (Kindle Edition, but there’s a link to the paperback version)

Story Review – “Final Statements”

“Final Statements” by A. J. O’Connell (Independent Ink Magazine, December 20, 2011, 2,286 words) is something of a psychological study. A late-thirties divorcee has moved back in with her mother–no surprise there–but the daughter, Roxanne, has a fascination with a Web site that lists the final words of executed criminals.

Roxanne has taken over her slovenly mother’s house and begun renovating it without her mother’s permission. The only off-limits place is the door to the basement, the site of her long-dead father’s workshop, which Roxanne’s mother still forbids her access.

At first, it’s easy to see Roxanne’s mother’s concern–her adult daughter makes a ritual of reading the words of executed murderers when the Web page gets updated every month. Roxanne curls up on the couch, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in hand, laptop open, and don’t you dare disturb her. She studies the executed man’s picture and rolls the last words over and over in her mind, noting that the ultimate words are usually, “I’m ready.” Her mother sits at the dining room table playing Solitaire the old fashioned way, with a deck of cards, and tosses barbs over her shoulder about her daughter’s odd obsession. By that point in the story, you begin to wonder just what Roxanne’s issue is with the dying words of the executed.

Then you find out, and I’ll never hear the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” the same way, ever again.

This is a short, tight story with a good twist at the end–very Hitchcock-esque–and I recommend it.