Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Chinese Proverb

and why I love my ANWA Chapter meeting

Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your
friend's forehead.
That’s the proverb.

It’s why I love my ANWA meetings. (Note: ANWA is the American Night Writer’s Association. It’s a writer’s network group for LDS (latter-day-saint) women.)

When I set out to write a novel, a full length one with a minimum of 50,000 words, I wrote about six chapters and discovered a few things. One – I needed to adjust my expectations for when I might finish the book, two- I needed to adjust my writing style, accustomed to writing one page poems filled with alliterations and obscure phrases, to prose that someone was willing to read. And three –I needed to adjust my desire to do it alone. I knew I needed help. I remembered basics of plot, characterization and pacing from college and high school classes, but that was (ahem) years ago. I knew from my poetry experiences and the sheer number of words I was writing, I needed to read some of what I was writing – out loud, to willing ears.

That’s when I found ANWA, or did ANWA find me? If you have time for a tangent, I still think it is amazing. One morning in the pouring rain, I drove my son to junior high and got rear ended by a young man, not watching the road or cars in front of him. Whiplash. Some fender and trunk damage. Eventually we sold the sedan and found a minivan I still love driving. (Funny sentence I’d never thought I’d write!) The whiplash led me to physical therapy. Physical therapy included therapeutic massage with a massage therapist that attended . . . yes, you guessed it, ANWA.

Back to the chapter meetings. I didn’t know what to expect when I attended. I promised myself, very much like I would my toddler, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go back. Here I am one year later –still enjoying the benefits of hanging out with great writers. I love how we are women of different ages, backgrounds, family situations and even different writing aspirations, but we are able to learn so much from each other.

Hence, the proverb. It makes me laugh out loud. Maybe because not too many people I know use hatchets these days, and I suppose I’m still young, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fly on anyone’s forehead. But I love the point. How a fly is a nuisance, yet harmless, and someone might use lethal measures to get rid of it.

But not in ANWA! What I have found there is a positive, encouraging, and caring group of women. A place where I show up with my shaky hands, holding my timid pages, waiting for everyone to run screaming from the room when I am done reading. Instead, I finish, look up and see a few smiles and women who appear comfortable as they listen. They do not have to use hatchets to remove the flies from my manuscript. Their kind words of thoughtful critique do it beautifully. I suppose some manuscripts might need a hatchet, or a shredder, or a torch, (sorry, didn’t mean to get carried away). But those are very rare. The ladies I have met and become freinds with in ANWA have helped me to critique and edit and polish my writing, without crippling me, the writer. That’s what I love about ANWA. And in case you are wondering, I have written this blog of my own free will – no one suggested, asked, paid or otherwise prompted me to do it!


Valerie Ipson said...

Yes! Bury the hatchet! Yay to ANWA!

Laurie LC Lewis said...

Great post, Tamara. I'm glad something so wonderful came from that fender-bender!

Anonymous said...

Now that is telling it the way it is! The first time ANWA critiqued my WIP I ran for the closet and hid in the dark. Then I crept back to my computer and peeked at my fellow writers' words of wisdom and began to come alive again. After I read a few more lines of their suggestions, I began to think maybe there were some smart cookies in ANWA and I should start listening. Wistfully I looked back at my comfort zone (the closet of course) and decided maybe a little 'light' on the subject can be a good thing.

Now I am a happy writer (most of the time) and can't wait to see what you all are saying next!

Love you all,
barbara b

Joan Sowards said...

ANWA is the best and fills the need in our lives to know other women who want to write. There is so much we can learn from one another.

Anna del C. Dye said...

So true. It is the best thing it happened to me when I found ANWA. I have learn so much and still doing with the great teachers there. Thanks ANWA.
Anna del C.
Author of "The Silent Warrior Trilogy"


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