Sunday, October 4, 2009

Writing School

Hello everyone from Chesire, CT. Tenley and I have been in NJ/NY/CT since last Wednesday in order to attend our dear friend Kimmi's bat mitzvah. Since I am in the process of packing to leave, here's what I am doing for this week's blog. I mentioned in a previous blog that I, unlike my children, enjoy having "writing prompts" to challenge me. (They have to do writing prompts here in Florida for "Writes Upon Request.")

A site I love,, has monthly writing prompts that writers can respond to, and the editors choose their favorites for publication in that month's blog. Even better, every respondent gets personalized feedback! The bad news this month is that I did not get selected for publication. The good news is that I really enjoyed crafting a response to the prompt, and LM's editor gave me some very constructive feedback. Here's where the "writing school" thing comes in. I am going to tell you the prompt and provide my initial response. I will also tell you literarymama's feedback. Then next Sunday night, after I have gotten back home and spent some time with the piece, I'll revise it according to the feedback. You can be the judge of how I did!

The prompt was: Have you been a member of a group that helped you connect with your true passion? How did this group sharpen your focus? At times, did you resent their guidance? What insights to your talents did the group offer?

My response:

Circular Thinking

I am running around in circles to rekindle my passion. I have company.
Our track club’s weekly interval workouts are defined as “planned, supervised workouts for serious runners intent on improving in distance races.” Intervals are multiples of short distance runs, accumulating to three miles, with rest periods between each short run. For example, the group may three one-mile=2 0races. This is supposed to improve endurance and speed. It works.
Fourteen years ago, I participated in intervals at the same track, under the same “supervision.” I was a slow but dedicated runner then (just as now). We were treated to occasional glimpses of Olympians training three lanes away. My abiding memory from that stint was when the leader said, “I just don’t know what to do with you.”
As my children became involved in the local running scene, I frequently found myself trotting along beside my daughter or son, or standing around on the sidelines envying the adults who were in for a generous dose of endorphins after they ran.
I began rekindling friendships with the running community.
I became captain of the track club’s Relay for Life team.
I clicked “yes” to the “I Am Runner” application on Facebook.
That “I Am Runner” thing started to bother me. You can be a runner at heart, or a past runner, or a wannabe runner, or parent of a runner, but that isn’t always enough.
In December 2008, I decided to live up to that “I Am Runner” affiliation, with a goal of running a five kilometer race in less than 30 minutes. This goal ambushed me from someplace deep in my psyche; I surprised myself by lacing up my shoes and printing out a 5K training plan
At the first race I ran after deciding on that goal (in early January 2009), my time was 43:30. On July 5, my race time was 42:48. I still had not broken 40 minutes, much less 30. It was time to return to intervals.
I was not feeling brave about the prospect of setting foot on the track again. The same coach, Gary, is still in charge, and the “I don’t know what to do with you,” had morphed in my head into “I don’t know what to do with myself.” When I saw I saw Gary at the July race, I broached the subject of my return with him. He was very receptive.
I have been back at intervals now for eight weeks. Compared to the seriously amazing athletes in the group, I am undeniably the outlier.
This group has rekindled my passion by its sheer acceptance. Although I probably provide a little comic relief with my less-than-elegant stride, there is not one iota of ridicule. Olympians are still only a few lanes away. What better inspiration?
By design, this group is light on feedback and heavy on encouragement by commiseration (the bonds of sweat?).
There is nothing to resent and much to inspire.

Lastly, the suggestions:

Now, about this submission, Circular Thinking. You have a few different themes running tandem -- the running group, your unwavering urge to run, and the "circle" metaphor. It's not entirely clear to me how the "circular" metaphor is meant to bind your ideas together, other than in the initial statement "I am running in circles."
Also, you touch on the running group, but as a reader, I'm left wondering. Who is in the group? What is the profile of the average member? Returnees to the sport? Newbies? Young runners? Middle-aged runners? At this point, I think the notion of your runners group lacks depth and I, as a reader, want you to show me more about the group. Don't tell me that you're in a group.You do better when it comes to your passion of returning to running. Your use of "intervals" is interesting and descriptive. But I think if you were able to attach it to something universal, it would make your use of "intervals" compelling.I know. I know. It's a tall order for an 500-words or less essay submission. For that reason, I think you have to tighten the piece, make the transitions smoother. And decide on the one metaphor that really weaves through the entire piece and binds it tightly.

I know this blog ended up "running" long, but thanks for reading all the way down and I look forward to serving up a "tighter" piece next week!!

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