Friday, April 9, 2010

When Feedback Is Good For a Laugh

Currently reading - Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer

I'm known as the Queen of Weird Rejection and Contest Comments in the Northwest Houston Chapter of RWA. Seriously, I've had some crazy ones. Sometimes, so bizarre they've become legends in Texas.

One morning a few years ago, I met some fellow chapter members for breakfast. A new gal named Stacey joined us, and as we talked about contest feedback, she started relating a story she'd heard about a gal from our state who'd gotten bad marks from a judge in California contest for having a constable as her hero. At this point everybody at the table cracked up. Poor Stacey looked bewildered until I said, "I'm the one that happened to."

The gist of the judge's comment was I needed to do my research because constables do not exist in the U.S.

Um, yeah, constables are law officers in some areas of the U.S. In some of the larger counties in Texas, the county is divided into precincts that are governed by Justices of the Peace and, you guessed it, a constables department. Trust me, I don't think I would have gotten out of my last speeding ticket by saying, "I'm sorry, sir, but you don't exist."

Then there's the judge who said I couldn't mix Greek and Roman names for my hero, Caesar, and his brother, Ptolemy. Except these two were based on the sons of Cleopatra VII of Egypt.

Yeah, that Cleopatra.

Her oldest son by Gaius Julius Caesar, a Roman general, was named Ptolemy Caesar and her youngest by Marcus Antonius, also a Roman general, was named Ptolemy Philadelphius. Heck, my crit partner, Jody, figured out by the second chapter that my Caesar was actually the middle son, Alexander Helios, because it was common for younger Romans to change their names to honor a deceased family member.

Another time I received bad marks from all three judges in a contest for not doing appropriate legal research concerning the passage of property when someone dies. (This particular story opens with the heroine trying to buy back a valuable heirloom during the auction of her grandmother's estate.) At the time I entered this particular contest, I was the head of the probate department of a law firm. I think I had a little bit of clue about how this stuff works.

This is not say the judge is always wrong. Author Susan Squires was the judge in another contest for this same manuscript. She pointed out several things that needed tightening in the opening chapter. Thanks to Ms. Squires' feedback I went on to final in two contests and get some agent requests for this puppy.

And maybe the reason more agents don't give feedback on manuscripts is sometimes the words just come out wrong.

Like the agent who said I had too much paranormal in my urban fantasy.

Yeah, that's what I thought too. What the agent really meant was I needed to slow down the pacing.

I guess the moral of this particular overlong saga is to take every bit of feedback and criticism with a grain of salt, a lime and a shot of tequila. Then wait and see if it makes sense after you've sobered up.

P.S. Mucho Gracias to DH, who found me some crickets!

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