Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Paint me some water colors

I haven't always been a rod wielding, pain inflicting pedagogue, you know.

Not so many years ago (okay, it was 1995, shut up), I had the rod pointed in my own face, was accused of having no direction, no attention span, no motivation, and no ability to sit still and shut the fuck up long enough to allow some knowledge to seep into the bored-looking thing that sat between my shoulders with all the stupid piercings hanging off of it. I was a budding 18 year old whose sole outlet for creativity and brain power was to find a way to convince a certain bass player to take my virginity or to bribe anyone of age into buying me some Boones at 7-11. I spent my time in smoke shops wishing I could afford another cool glass blown pipe and more meaningless bumper stickers for my beat up Chrysler. I loitered around coffee shops pretending I was studying and not scoping out anything that looked like it might have had a penis attached to it. Happiness, for me, was a Jimmy Eat World show, a new Jerky Boys tape, ditching Chemistry class, and scheming a way to sneak to California for the weekend to take acid.

I didn't write, I didn't sing, I didn't play music, I didn't dance, I didn't paint. I sure as shit didn't study.

My only motivation for going to college was to locomote after my beloved bass player like a pathetic caboose and it was no surprise that he soon realized I had nothing whatsoever to contribute to any conversation or creative process and duly told me to go play in traffic.

If I were to look back on journals written during that time, I would likely find the flying brain chunks that were the residuals of a self-conscious, immature pre-adult obsessed with any boy that would make eye contact with her for longer than five seconds. The entries would have no point to them, no overarching theme and they would likely have the literary value of the wall in the toilet stall of the girls' restroom near the freshman lockers.

When I started reading Tiffany's blog, this is precisely what I expected to find. How on earth was I going to relate to this teen that whines about her braces and how her senior year is coming to an end and how she will have to say goodbye to the drama club?

But Tiffany, unlike my 18 year old counterpart, is a writer, and she knows it.

To be fair, and to bludgeon all of my pupils with the same instructional force independent of age, Tiffany does have some work to do when it comes to her blog, that is not entirely centered around aging ten years. I won't lie-- as far as my interest goes, that does have something to do with my willingness to become an avid reader, and I think it's only fair to tell the readers of ASK what they can expect. Let's face it – the repertoire from which Tiffany draws experiences to post about is limited. She herself admits that the lowest point in her life has been having chicken pox. But I don't believe she can't be a wonderful writer just because she hasn't experienced enough.

The problem with Tiffany is that she sometimes loses sight that her blog should NOT be an online journal. If she's truly in this for the writing, her blog should be a place where a greater proportion of the posts are as well thought out as all of her scholarship application essays and her short stories. On an online journal, it is acceptable to have posts dedicated to updating your readership a la letters to Grandma, and it is also acceptable to write 'LOL' excessively (I guess). On the blog of a writer, it is not acceptable. The blog is the writing outlet, my dear, not the outlet for the writer to post updates about the ho-hum details of her life, whose true writing is located elsewhere. Tiff usually gets this, but I want her to remind herself of this each time she posts.

In general, her entries stick to the point and are decently written (with the exception of a few I/me problems). She's funny, and thoughtful, and willing to accept and talk about her weaknesses which I find thoroughly inspiring. She's naive, but not despicably so. Tiff has some kind of fiery electricity exuding from her personality that I totally dig on which she has managed to transmit through her writing and that has desperately made me wish I could go back to being 18 so that I could be best friends with her and learn from her ability to focus on what will be a source of happiness in her life-- her centered creativity and the development of her voice.

Tiff, it's time to fine tune things. You know how to paint a picture with broad strokes with a synthetic paintbrush in earth tones, and you do it well, essentially telling the reader what happened to you. Now it's time to start going back over your posts before you publish them with tiny, colorful brush strokes and paint in the split ends, the moles on the back of your characters' necks, the rust stains, the subtleties that will make your readers live the moment with you, as opposed to hearing you relay it. It is rarely the actual events described in a piece that strike a reader; it is the writer's capacity to take the reader on a ride somewhere they have never been and see the world through someone else's eyes that really counts.

As to the design, it's alright, although I hate headers on principle that have the word 'blog' in them and I don't get the water bottle thing. Maybe she explained it back when she was doing the font colors and center aligned text thing but since that was making me want to head butt my computer screen in an epileptic fit, I couldn't dig much further in to look for explanations. I'm glad she grew out of that phase, by the way. She desperately needs to create tabs across the top underneath the header to contain all the madness that is currently polluting her sidebar, and to include a complete about me page (the paragraph she has proclaiming herself as a novelist is not enough – which, by the way, I hope she's aware of the kind of literary expectations this creates). I also recommend that she collect some of her best stuff, the material she is the most proud of and create a tab for it, to reel in some potential readers.

For now you get two stars. I was tempted to give you an additional star based on pure cuteness and potential alone, but I want you to earn a better score. I'm adding you to my reader. Because I really think I can fucking love you someday.

P.S. Tiff - I love that you put 'willing to learn' with a smiley face on a job application where it asked for relevant experience. That kicks ass and if I were the one hiring you would get the job.


  1. Hey, she's a kid and considering the fact that she's still in high school she's very good. Light years ahead of where I was as a writer when I was 18. I'm sure she'll hone her skills and become even better.

    I just couldn't read about social studies fairs and telling off mean girls on the school bus for very long.

  2. Shit, I realized some of the links weren't to the posts I wanted to link to. The posts that I wanted to link to, I'm not sure why, but she deleted them. It's a shame, but I'm sure that a couple of her best posts she's deleted. Whatever.

  3. Finally a review of a teen blogger. I will have to check it out. Lol.

  4. I think she's adorable.

  5. I was all dead set on being like, "18 year old girl? Really? What are you doing, silly thing? I am an agist, yes."

    But goddammit, seriously, she's fucking adorable. Oh my god. And then I read this:

    Which is the exact same thing I did when I first started looking for a serving job. Like, that exact same story, except instead of "Chinese Food" say "sushi."

    And now I'm afraid that I should stay far, far away form her and hope she doesn't end up like me.

  6. Madame - Thank you for the very nice review. I liked what you had to say about yourself as well.

    I honestly thought I'd be ripped to pieces. But this surprised me greatly. Phew.



  7. She is a wonderful young woman. I am not just saying that because I am her mom.. She truly is a very talented writer, artist, and musician.

    She makes me laugh every damn day. I am very proud of her.

    She made me read your review.. she was scared to death she was going to be ripped apart. It was a very good critique, I know she will take a lot of it to heart.

    She got a better review than I did and I think that is wonderful!

  8. Tiffany,
    Don't be surprised--you earned those two stars. Your blog is charming and you write better than most people 20 years older. You have a very conversational style that's breezy and easy to read. Congratulations on having the guts to submit.

  9. Well I'm here now, Tiff, so there's at least some hope that someone is going to be ripped apart.

    Just happens that it's not you, sweetness.

  10. I can't believe no one commented on the rod in the face bit.

  11. I was gonna write a review , but then I saw that her mom made an appearance in the comment thread. Wow. That really alters how I have to go about things.

    I can say that she has a great deal of technical skill for just an 18 year old girl.

    I don't have the technical skills she has and I am 38. Maybe I will never get them.

    In fact the lack of technical skills I have have kept me from being a professional writer or even attempting to write a novel.

    She has already written two?

    They may not be great (she has pulled them off LULU but still...two novels...

    My problems in the technical arena have often made me want to shoot myself in the face, grow some breasts and chop my penis off and have it inserted into me as a vagina, get married and have Daddy files babies, who grow up to be good little kids who salute the flag, and not get any plastic surgery to correct my face, thereby getting me all the concomitant sympathy and lowered expectations we patronizingly give to people with disabilities (like young people.)

    I wrote all that on a post it note at work and I don't remember why, but I felt the need to add it to this post anyway.

    I think at the time I was confusing daddy files with the guy who got a douchey review.

    Back to the review:

    It's very possible this girl in a few years will have grown and experienced enough to develop a viewpoint that is unique and deserving of the rather talented (if prosaic) skill set she managed thus far.

    I would suggest reading material that challenges you & pushes you out of your comfort zone.

    Either that or live downtown with the hobos.

  12. Man, this girl just makes you want to root for her.

    Oh, and Tiffany - if you can't find work, take a page out of my book. When I dropped out of college (the first time), I didn't know what to do with myself, so I took a job at a fish cannery in Alaska. They'll take anybody, seriously. And they'll pay your way up there, too (getting back is a different story).

    Go have an adventure of some kind, and keep writing. You've got the chops, you just need to practice and hone. Yes, I said "hone."


Grow a pair.