Visiting the Generation Gap from the Other end

When we get older we sometimes participate in a kind of disconnect without realizing it.  I don’t mean things like politics or music; with a little effort or enthusiasm I can keep up my end enough to carry on a conversation about most things with my grown grandchildren.  But sometimes I have to remind myself that my memories and my opinions are based on a much longer base of experience.  They are looking at the world through a camera lens, while I am zooming across nearly seventy years.

Last week I attended a Meet-Up with a local group of writers I hadn’t met before, and I was pleased when four of our seven turned out to be young – that is to say, twenties?  It gets harder to judge at this end.

Conversation was invigorating.  At times these “kids” reminded me of my old friends who camped outside the store back in the Eighties so they could be the first in line for the latest Piers Anthony or Stephen King or a particular fanzine. It was when the talk moved on to editing manuscripts that I was pulled out of my no doubt condescending amusement.

I brought up the fact that one college-age person who had attended my other group for a short time did her “critiquing” entirely on my punctuation and had laboriously gone through and “corrected” where I had double-spaced after every period at the end of a sentence.  I said that when you’ve been taught and have practiced that double-space for so long, it was damn near impossible to make your thumb hold at one space when your mind has already moved on to the next sentence.  And what was the big deal, anyway?

One of the young women explained to me that one space was insisted on because many people would “pad out” their work in order to make it look longer.  This seemed to make sense; at least it was the first actual explanation I’ve ever received.  So I nodded and conceded that it was a good point.

Then I got to thinking about it.

The fact is that the double-space at the end of a sentence has been the rule since manuscripts were first submitted to publishers in typewritten form rather than long-hand.  In other words, by insisting on one space you are not restricting anyone from doing it differently — it’s the one-space that’s different.  If professors today don’t want padding in their college papers, they might concentrate on overworked themes and drawn-out conclusions rather than focusing on something that has been in place for upwards of a hundred years.  Or simply make the guidelines involve word-count and not pages, just as any publishing house does.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying we need to stick with the double-spacing after a period.  I really don’t care.  I am saying that there is a reason for it just as there is for double-spacing the lines.  I don’t even want to picture a manuscript submitted with the lines single-spaced. Double-spacing between lines was required because editors (or professors) did not want to strain their eyes trying to read however-many submissions day after day.  From experience I know that sentences can start running together if they are crammed in elbow to elbow, top to tail.  And you need space to write comments, insert corrections, add or delete.  This is incredibly frustrating with a single-line-spaced manuscript, and I can’t think that having only one space between sentences would be any help either.

But rather like the little boy who ran home from school and exclaimed,  “Mom!  Did you know that Paul McCartney was in another band before Wings?”, these younger people were looking at the world through a zoom lens that didn’t extend into the past much further than, possibly, ten years before their birth.  I guess us old folks have to keep remembering that.

By the way, there’s a double space after every sentence in this post. So sue me.

The Thornbush

A 100-word story for Friday Fictioneers @

https://rochellewisoff.com/


PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio

She crouched behind the thornbush and heard him croon her name in the night.  His silhouette crossed in front of the backyard security lamp, and she clenched her eyes tight so he wouldn’t see her tears reflecting the light.  At first the thunderous rain had masked every sound, but now there was silence except for the crack of the stick when he lashed out at something. 

She couldn’t tell anyone what he’d done.  She would curl up and let the earth absorb her.  The cold was sweet and forgiving, and the yard lamp shone through the thorns like a star.

How do I handle haters? With pity.

Yesterday I read a great newsletter/blog post by Marcy McKay, author of “Pennies from Burger Heaven”, and it started me thinking about the haters out there, especially the ones trolling posts by authors, be they famous or wannabes. And that started me remembering many things.

In his later years, my father became critical of everyone — I learned to dread the first few hours after we came home from any kind of a gathering.  He paced like a caged tiger and let us know what was WRONG with each and every person who had been there (and some who had not, with his nasty speculations as to why).  It invariably ruined even my mother’s enjoyment of the day, patient as she was of his shortcomings.

Back when I was growing up, he kept his criticism to just my sister and me — or maybe just me. I seemed to be the one who could never live up to his expectations. So I grew up self-conscious, insecure and had no self-esteem, and yet something deep inside me stood up and fought back.  Not hate, exactly, but definitely something that was always there between us, keeping us from becoming really close. Then slowly I came to realize that he, like all of us, carried the criticisms of his own childhood on his back. His coping strategy was to point out everyone else’s faults, so that he could feel better about himself by comparison.  That’s a sad thing, and after that I just pitied him.  And that’s what I do with haters.  Or at least all but one:


A few years ago I was in an online writers group on Facebook that welcomed beginners.  Some obviously had no background at all in the craft of writing, but they all had a story they wanted very much to tell, and the more experienced of us worked at being encouraging.  We’ve all been there, right?  Then we got a hater.  Every time one of these hesitant, diffident people posted about what they wanted to write, this person replied with the most virulent abuse:  how could they even think they could be writers, they were obviously stupid and inept and knew nothing and would never be successful at it, on and on. They should take her advice and quit trying, because after all she was a real professional author.  The rest of us told these “youngsters” over and over to ignore her, but many simply dropped out.  And many more just couldn’t help crying out things like “I don’t understand, why are you saying this to me?, I know I’m no good but . . . ”  You could hear their pain, and it was heartbreaking.  Their answers and our own pleas just drove her into greater heights of sadistic pleasure.  I got so desperate to drive her off before she ruined the site that I went looking for the books this “professional real author” had published and found that she had one book that had been published ten years before by an outfit I never heard of.  It had nothing but bad reviews, and from the remarks it appeared she had sold maybe five copies and nothing in the last nine years.  So although I felt bad for shaming her right back, I posted my “research” with no additional comment.  Wow, you can imagine what she had to say about me after that!

😁

But at least she forgot about the newbies for a while.  Finally we got the attention of the site monitor and they got her blocked, and the last thing I heard was that FB had blocked her altogether. I have always felt that it was a shame we had to do that, and yet, there are times when, if someone is dragging you under, you just have to kick free and let them drown in their own unhappiness.

So what’s your way of dealing with haters?

Lost In the Woods

Here’s another 100-word piece I wrote to a “Friday Fictioneers” prompt photo:




“Your Mama’s a gypsy.  You can’t tie ’em down.” 

“Why’d she take our car and not say goodbye?”

Daddy smiled and then refused to talk about it anymore.

“Just you promise me,”  he said, pointing a finger at me.  “You won’t leave like that.”

I went to college without leaving town.  Married a girl as unlike Mama as possible, bought a house sitting solid on an acre of land.

Two days ago I found the car, far up the mountain from the cemetery where Daddy rests alone.  Over the years Daddy had salvaged every part he could.  Except the truth.

Sometimes you just want to read a good book, not write one.

I enjoy Alyssa Maxwell’s “Gilded Newport” series so I entered a drawing in her newsletter. I won! A signed edition of “A Murderous Marriage” (book 4 in her ‘Lady and Lady’s Maid’ series), plus a beautiful teacup and saucer with some beautiful English Breakfast tea to go with it! Time to stoke up the pellet stove and settle in.

On a rainy, drizzly, icy overcast day, there is nothing like a cozy murder mystery and a cuppa.

An Ode to Walter Mosley

Last weekend I attended the 2018 New England Crimebake.  I had not been before and wasn’t sure what to expect.  But if you are a crime novel writer or reader, this is a place to celebrity-watch and get fired up over all the great new books coming out.  This year’s Guest of Honor was Walter Mosley, creator of Easy Rawlins and writer of many bestsellers.  His novel “Devil in a Blue Dress” was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals.  It’s excellent — watch it any chance you get and read the book for its superb blending of mystery and character motivation.

This year the administrators set up a short-short story contest.  In no more than 150 words, we were challenged to write a flash story in which a crime occurs [any kind], using no less than ten words from a list of seventeen that were taken from the titles of Mosley’s books.  I had a blast with it [I managed to use fourteen words from the list].  Three winners were chosen, and I was one of them.  It was the greatest thrill to stand up in front of a few hundred writers and readers of crime fiction and read my own story!  It’s something to remember always.

Mosley & the 3 winners

This is me on the right, with the other two winners [I’m ashamed to say I didn’t note down their names; hopefully the Crimebake website will post them soon] and Mr. Walter Mosley himself.  By the way, if you ever get a chance to listen to him talk about the craft of writing, grab it!  He is fun and informative and a natural speaker, which is not always the case with even the best writers.

So, just for fun, here’s the story, with words from Mosley’s titles underlined:

HEY, I LIKE TO COOK

Hey, I like to cook, and all I want is a quiet existence.  So I felt fortunate to have found a cheap basement apartment that had access to a charcoal grill on the patio.  But I hadn’t counted on the apartment manager’s dog, a raging evil brute with big ugly teeth that got a thrill out of chasing me away from my apartment door when I came home every single day.

The manager laughed when I complained and then tried to put his hand up my dress.  But he got used to seeing me cooking on the patio, so pieces of butterfly “chicken” on the grill didn’t cause him any fear, even after the dog came up missing.  The dog’s mistake was liking my cinnamon buns with just a kiss of arsenic.  His owner’s mistake was accepting my invitation to a delicious backyard fry-up.