We don't do stars...
We don't do thumbs...
We read children's books and grade them in 10 categories:
literary quality
descriptive ability
humor (if attempted)
illustrations (if present)
believability of characters
believability of situations
overall reading enjoyment

There is no grading curve. There are no points for classroom participation. There is no extra credit.
If you disagree, come speak to us after class.

The Grading System

A+.....this means (guess what) we think it's great. So great it surprised even us.
A.....this means it's pretty darn good. A book we'd recommend to just about everyone we know.
B.....better than most. Not exactly Shakespeare for kids, though, if you get our drift.
C.....mediocre. Like the color beige, it didn't stand out.
D.....we didn't like it. There were more bad aspects than good ones.
F.....it reeked of badness. We read it over and over when we are in dire need of hysterical laughter.
F-.....We're pretty sure Dante had a circle of hell for the people who wrote these...and a lower circle for those who published them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Special Topic: If at first you don't succeed...

I recently came across a book by one of my favorite authors—and I hated it. The story was so cloying and poorly written that I often found myself convulsed in laughter. The characters are terribly unbelievable and too perfect to be likable; the events are hilariously clichĂ©; the plot is unoriginal and dreadfully predictable. Here’s a sample of dialogue:

…he stood beside her and held his hat above her head, saying, “Will you accept the only shelter I can give? The damp drops falling on your hair will chill you.” (NOTE: Aren’t all drops damp??)

As she looked up to thank him, she saw blood upon his hand. “You have wounded yourself. How did it happen?” she asked.

“It is nothing but a scratch from the rough stones, and won in a good cause,” he answered, smiling.

“But it was gained in moving them for me. It must be painful. Let me bind it with my handkerchief,” she asked timidly.

“If you please, but ‘tis not worth the trouble.”

And as Edith stooped to place it on his hand, Amy saw a strange, bright smile rest upon his face as he looked upon her head, bent before him with the raindrops shining in her dark, disordered hair, which fell upon her shoulder…

I should have clarified: this is a RANDOM example of dialogue. There are worse.

When you’re done gagging, consider this: the excerpt above is from the book The Inheritance, the first novel completed by Louisa May Alcott, when she was seventeen years old. It wasn’t published then. It probably shouldn’t be now, except to serve as an example to all of us of a few things:

1) It’s a rare teenager who can get past the passions and inexperience of adolescence to write a book worthy of publishing. Even the author of Little Women couldn’t manage it.

2) Perfect characters are muy boring.

3) Don’t let rejection stop you. Just because an editor hates your book (or just because I hate your book!) doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to become a great author. You have to have a hide of steel and a lot of perseverance; you also have to have an ear for honest constructive criticism. Louisa May Alcott was lucky enough to have editors, friends, and family members who were willing to point out her flaws in writing. She fixed (most of) them. She kept writing. She became one of the most beloved authors of all time. And if she was alive now, she would be rolling in what she made from the movie deal.

I address this in particular to the many young writers out there: By all means, don’t stop writing when you recognize flaws in your writing, or when finishing a story is harder than you anticipated, or when even your mom thinks your book stinks. Keep writing. Keep living. Keep gaining maturity and experience and keep piling up criticism and rejections (though I wouldn’t recommend actually submitting anything to a publisher until someone other than you and your mom love it—try contests for young writers instead). Remember that drops are always damp.

Try, try again.

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