Over at Girdle of Melian, Deniz posted a goal for this month: Look over your old writing. Which was one of those crazy synchronous moments for me because, lo and behold, I had just found a 3.5 floppy (you guys remember what those are, right?) filled with embarassing old short stories and a notebook that I kept in second grade.
(Originally, I thought it was from kindergarten…then I realized that my math sucked by two years. Better for me to stick to the writing….)
On the front page of said notebook is a small note written in the hand of one Roxanne Clarke, my second grade teacher at Nolanville Elementary School in Killeen, TX. (It may be Harker Heights, TX, now.) It is dated November 26, 1986:
“Jennifer — You need to work on new ideas. Your stories make sense, but are almost the same every day.”
What? What! The same every day? Need to work on new stories! Augh! (And yes, she did emphasize the word ‘new’.)
Imagine how I must have felt earlier today, reading those words some couple decades later.
Yeah. I felt just like Philip Roth.
When Carmen Callil left the Man Booker Prize judging in protest she leveled a similar charge, as quoted in The Guardian: “he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book.”
Oh, I feel for my second grade teacher and Callil both. Having to read the same old story over and over again, and only the characters have different names. Thinly veiled political agendas such as the following pepper my notebook: “This is a cake. What is a cake? Oh, it is something you eat.”
Only to be repeated again and again to make sure the message gets through, like so: “This is a flower. Flowers are pretty. Lets pick one!”
I can hear the criticism now….
She only writes about chubby girls.
She only writes about girly girls.
She only writes about chubby girly girls.
Well, gosh darn it. If Roth can win the Man Book Prize for repetitive themes, then I say that I give my just-turned-seven-year-old self at least three stars for the same thing.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.