Monday, November 12, 2018

I Blame the Magi.


I blame the Magi.  They started this whole giving gifts at Christmas thing, but let me warn you, though I have no use for frankincense or myrrh, I could use some gold around this time of year.
Christmas giving can be expensive, so it is best to plan before you go shopping instead of spending your hard-earned cash on gifts that won’t be appreciated.   
When I was a preteen my mother gave me a present that still gives me nightmares, yet I am sure that was not her intention.  She gave me a Christmas outfit that she forced me to wear to midnight Mass.  It was a green, bonded knit skirt that came with a long sleeved, green and white, horizontal striped top. It wasn’t even Christmas green, but this garish lime green that next to my complexion made me look jaundiced.  It also gave me a skin rash, but Mother demanded I wear it because it was expensive. It wasn’t around for long, because, hey, how was I to know bonded knit wasn’t supposed to be ironed?
Her money would have been better spent if she had asked me what I wanted.  
Here we are decades later and I am still unappreciative when it comes to presents I do not need and or that require for me to dust.  I thank the giver profusely, display their gift for a respectable period of time, and then quietly get rid of it.  
Christmas gifts do not need to be expensive. I prefer a fun or useful present.  
Here’s my take on it:
Start with a list and decide on a reasonable budget. Find ways to give gifts without going into debt.   
I love to give fun presents like Santa hats or headbands, Christmas socks, tree decorations, candles.
I love swapping names, doing Secret Santa, maybe a White Elephant; and set a dollar limit to the gift. It’s more fun hunting for the One right gift than buying in multiples because you have so many people on your list. I actually have friends who have a ONE DOLLAR limit on their gift swap. Another friend participates in a gift swap where the present has to be a certain shape.  Last year, the present had to be round and under $20.00.  What fun.    
I love food gifts.  
My husband and his family are spread out all over two states, so we send each other packages of food.  It isn’t Christmas until HB sends everyone the Deluxe Sampler from the New Braunfels Smokehouse, and no one has forgiven my mother-in-law the one year she decided not to send everyone the No. 101 Fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery.
And I love, love, love Cookie Exchanges. I’ve taken part in several and it is a great way to spend time together and then come home with an assortment of cookies.
I still miss my grandmother’s tamaladas where all the women in my family gathered together for one full day to make tamales and then we each got fresh, homemade dozens of tamales to take home to our families.   
As a grandmother of twelve, I came up with the Pajama Gramma Plan. Whether they like it or not, my grandchildren get pajamas for Christmas.  I skipped it last year and fielded complaints, so they are getting pajamas again this year.  They will also get a book or a video, something to eat or drink (popcorn, hot chocolate packet), and a small present (gift card, earbuds, phone charger, etc.) in their Christmas gift from Gramma.
I did the Advent Countdown Calendar with Books one year. I purchased thirty-one, inexpensive children’s’ books and wrapped each one individually in Christmas paper. I made two sets, one for each family with young children at that time. The child opened one book a night throughout the entire month of December and their parents read it to them at bedtime. It wasn’t as expensive as it sounds.  I bought my books at a second-hand bookstore. I bought sets of books by one author online, and  I bought books anywhere I could find a good book for under $5.00. It took some planning but I came in under budget when I did that. It might be time to try this again since those grands now have younger siblings.
Those gift-giving magi rubbed off on me but remember their gifts to the Baby had special meaning.  I hope you put as much thought into your gifts as well.  


Monday, November 5, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups: 1.     You do not talk about write club. Oh, but you do.   You have to.   There are several things to consider when forming a critique...

The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups



1.    You do not talk about write club.
Oh, but you do.  You have to.  There are several things to consider when forming a critique group. It needs at least three members; otherwise, what you have is a critique partner. Right? A good group size is about six; any more members and adjustments to the work load have to be made.  
A good critique group should be divided into genres – fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novel-length work, poetry, children’s books, etc. Each genre has its own focus, rules, and expectations, and the members cannot be expected to be experts in each.
The group must decide when, where, and how often to meet.  Some critique groups work online only and others meet in person.  The best place for in-person critique groups is to meet in neutral zones, places without distractions, like a library meeting room or an office. Restaurants and private homes compromise the owners into hosting the event.
Also talk about how often the group will meet.  Once a week, once a month, twice a month?  And how long will the meeting last?  Time of day? In order to limit the focus and stick to the business a critique group, allot one or two hours per meeting and stick to the work at hand.  
2.     You DO NOT talk about write clubs.
We have to. Let’s talk about the task itself. Depending on the size of the group and the genre to be discussed, the group must agree on the number of pages each member is allowed to submit to be critiqued per meeting.  It makes sense that the number of pages a poetry group submits per session will differ than the number of pages a group reading each other’s novels will submit.
Decide how to share the pages to be critiqued so the group members have time to read and discuss them? Will these pages be posted online and critiqued on-line, or posted on line and discussed in person?  Will the author bring printed copies for everyone in the group and will it be read at the meeting or sent home to be read and returned at the following meeting? 
All work should be submitted according to the rules of traditional publishing: printed in 12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced, one-sided, with the author’s last name and title in the header, and pages numbered in the footer.
3.    Someone yell’s stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. The focus of critiquing is easy: listen to what input the author wants from the group (edits, revisions, help with problems encountered) and stick to that objective, remembering that in the end, any changes to the manuscript belong to the author.
4.    Only two guys to a fight. Respect and share the time allotted so everyone gets to share and get input in the discussion of the group. Always keep to the rules and expectations set by the group.
5.    One fight at a time, fellas. Learn the rules.  Follow the rules.  No exceptions.  If the group starts to stray from its objective, take a break and revisit the rules and objectives. Remember a critique offers structural suggestions and a criticism looks for flaws and faults.
6.    No shirts; no shoes. Pages submitted for critiquing should stand alone without lengthy explanations from the author.  No long oral prologues and epilogues.  It it’s not on the page, it is not on the page.
7.    Fights will go on as long as they have to.  Go about it like professionals and come prepared. It is a two-way partnership. Both sides invest time and effort into the experience and should learn from each other. Stop repeating the same mistakes and the writing should improve from it  
8.    If this is the first time at Fight Club, you have to fight. This probably should be #1. Everyone in the critique group should bring pages to be critiqued, regardless of the writer’s level of expertise or need. A group member might be in a writing lull, and joins the group to get inspired or keep up with the group’s progress, but sooner than later, everyone has to submit pages to be critiqued.