My grandfather Max Bloom died 50 years ago today. I was too young to remember him, but my mom told me many stories about him. She adored her dad, and she used him as a model of what a man should be. This is why, for better and worse, he shaped me to be the person I am today. Read more »
This coming weekend, members of my class from Sequoia Junior High School in Reseda are having a 40th anniversary reunion. I won’t be able to make it, unfortunately. Instead, I’d like to share some memories of being a junior high school student in the 1970s.
Actually, there was never a time in history when it was good to be a junior high school student. Ages 12 to 15 can be described with one word, awkward. Voices drop, acne blooms, and the race to see whose body can most resemble an adult’s begins. We get the awkward sex talk at a time when we feel the least sexy. It’s hard to impress “the la-a-a-dies” when your mom drives you around in her Olds 98 and talks about what “a big boy” you’re getting to be.
Generosity is an important and valuable trait. It’s how we show our love and gratitude, offer kindness to those who need it, and share our gifts to help others. Most major religions extol the virtues of giving and make it a core tenet. We know it is better to give than receive.
With all the good things about generosity, can a person be too generous? Are there times when giving can be inappropriate or even toxic? There are. We need to know when we shouldn’t give, just as we need to know when we should give openly when we can and should.
A few years ago, I wrote about the trajectories taken by the community where I grew up, Reseda, and the city where I live, Lake Forest. Today, Lake Forest’s trajectory is heading right towards the ground. Our city is embroiled in a bitter fight by one block of city council members who want to recall the other block. Both sides have enough embarrassing sordidness to go around. There is the campaign sign stealing. And the altercation in a supermarket parking lot. And the nasty campaign flyers that fill our mailboxes on a regular basis.
You may ask, “If you’re so unhappy with your city council, why don’t you run? You’re always talking about the importance of getting involved. You were a Little League president. You attended the Lake Forest Leadership Academy. You’re an award-winning public speaker. You have friends in Reseda who can show you how to build a community. Why don’t you run for city council?”
My answer will explain what’s wrong with politics today.
Here’s why you should use beta readers. I asked a friend to review my draft of The Remainders. She liked the book, especially the characters. She wanted to learn more about them and asked if I could add more of their stories.
As I looked at the draft again, I agreed with her. I also realized that the book was too short. At under 40,000 words and 110 paperback pages, it wasn’t long enough to be called a novel. The problem was that I told the story only from the point of view of Dylan, the main character. His narrative ended where it was supposed to end. Anything I could add to it would be filler.
The solution came from a book that my friend enjoyed. This book told stories from different characters’ perspectives until they all came together in the end.
This sounded like a great idea. So, I decided to add another character’s first-person narrative to counter Dylan’s. I chose his father, especially because he plays an important role in the ending. I can contrast the two stories, describe how their lives were similar, and show how and why they came to misunderstand each other. It also fits well with the theme — how we can feel like remainders even when we have the outward appearance of success. The change not only makes The Remainders a better book, it also makes for better therapy.
The lesson: Seek out beta readers and listen to their advice. They will help your story and make writing it a more rewarding experience.