The Write Practice

The Online Writing Workbook

What’s Stopping You From Getting Published?

I’m a trial by fire guy. I haven’t always been that way, but I’ve learned to love it, especially with writing. As an entrepreneur, I subscribe to the READY, FIRE, AIM methodology, as opposed to the traditional READY, AIM, FIRE.

I know authors who subscribe to the READY, READY, AIM, AIM, AIM system. “Work In” never translates to “Work Out.” Are you one of them?

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photo credit: Leshaines123 via photopin cc

It’s easy to get stuck in the brainstorming and preparation phases. “What should my book be about?” “How many times should I edit?” “Will anyone read my novel?”

There Is A Better Way

While asking these questions is important, the best way to test your writing is to get it into the hands of the reading public. Readers will tell you what you need to fix through reviews, comments, etc… It may not always be comfortable, but it is necessary.

The best way is to get published.

Publish a blog.

Publish a novel.

Publish a book of poems.

Just publish.

Get Out Of The Bubble

I remember the day I got my first 1-star review. My gut clenched as my heart sank. Someone was criticizing my work!

Guess what? Unless you write solely for yourself (there’s nothing wrong with that), at some point you’ll have to introduce your craft to the world. You can’t do that in a bubble, hiding behind your computer screen.

There will be critics. The more you follow your heart the less naysayers matter.

Reach For Greatness

I’ve learned that in order to succeed I must deal with failure. It’s inevitable. There’s been a lot of it in my life. Starts and stops. Flaws and flops.

There is nothing wrong with submitting your manuscript to agent after agent, publisher after publisher. That’s just not the path for me. I’m an independent. I want to control my own destiny. If I flop, the blame rests squarely on my shoulders. I publish constantly.

If you want to be a successful writer, find out what greatness looks like for you. I want to publish and sell lots of books. I know what my greatness looks like.

What’s stopping you from getting published?

PRACTICE

Come up with a story about a child overcoming her fear of failure and write about it for fifteen minutes.

Post your practice in the comments section below and please provide feedback for your peers :)

About Carlos Cooper

Carlos is author of the The Mentor Code series, the Corps Justice novels and The Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon. Get a FREE audio copy of I Am a Writer.

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  • Scott Biddulph

    The story of Jacob

    Jacob sat on the swing set licking his proverbial wounds.
    Once again, he struggled to find some semblance of self-worth and confidence.
    They had done it to him again—what a sick joke life was.

    (Earlier in the day)

    Jacob sat on the bleachers in the school gym awaiting the
    prep-rally for the football game that night. The popular kids sat to his lower
    right about three rows down.

    “Jacob” he heard someone call his name. “Could they be
    talking to me,” he thought to himself.

    “Jacob”

    Jacob looked down at the group…yep…they were talking to him.
    His insides were filled with mixed emotions: fear, excitement, doubt.

    “Hey guys, what`s up?” he answered.

    The crowd of boys looked at one another and smiled as
    predators prepared to pounce on their prey…

    “Do you know how really stupid you look in those cloths?”

    Laughter broke the silence and seemed to echo throughout the
    entire gym. Jacob grabbed his bag and slowly walked down the bleachers hearing
    the bursting laughter behind him as he walked away.

    As Jacob sat on the swing that day, he thought of the
    cruelty of that moment in the gym. He thought of revenge. He imagined himself
    as another person—someone popular, good-looking, and athletic—but he knew it
    wasn`t so. What good am I really, he thought. What am I good at? Why did God
    put me here—just to be taunted? Jacob thought of the other stories he heard of
    school shootings, bullies, and brutally sad endings to stories of human
    cruelty. NO! I will not fall into this trap!

    That day, Jacob decided to jump headlong into his passion—he
    would become a writer. One day these very same people—this group of bullies—will
    see my name on the cover of a book. One day they will know that I could have
    been a great friend…

    Sometimes our greatest
    hurts, failures, and mistakes can become our greatest asset. WP

    • Sefton

      Thanks for sharing this. I wanted to know more about the moment when Jacob thought No, about how he came to that decision. Maybe some foreshadowing about writing earlier in the piece? I noticed a couple of viewpoint changes too, from ‘he thought’ to simply relaying the thoughts (I think the second has more impact).

      Finally – I hope these comments don’t put you off the Just Publish message of today’s blog entry!
      - Sef

      • Scott Biddulph

        Very good advice my friend. As I stated to Carlos, I was sorta playing around with this little tale of woe. Great to meet you. God bless. WP

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      Thanks for sharing, Scott. I think the tale is all too common. I’ve been there. I want to read on and see what Jacob does next. Maybe in your next WP installment? :)

      • Scott Biddulph

        Thank you. Yeah, I was just playing around. I didn`t think a 2000 word short story would be proper on a blog comment (laughing). Love the blog and I would be glad to post again. WP

  • Sefton

    The thing is, I didn’t face my fear, I didn’t beat it, I didn’t defeat it. Fear got me, it won, and I let it.

    It had me by the throat, twisting my school tie up and tightening the knot worse than Sarah McMillan ever could, making my eyes protrude, making my sinuses ache as I gasped for air.

    Fear sneered in my face and spit collected on its lips ready to spray me with a revolting coat of lick.

    I have never been more scared.

    My heart pounded so quickly as I pressed Share that I thought I would pass out. Make public? asked the website.

    I thought of McMillan. God she hated me. -It was mutual. I thought of my class, a wall of mandatory bottle-green uniform and rebellious cheap High Street shoes. I thought of all of them. The whole school would laugh. And not with me. They would sneer, and call it pathetic, and be furious with me for having the sheer nerve to create my own online channel for my sketches.

    But then. This video would be seen by people I didn’t know. Total strangers. People who didn’t know or, presumably, care, that I was not cool. Adults. That was crucial. People who had survived fifteen, come out the other side punching the air, would see the video. And maybe they would like it.

    Anyone could see it, anyone. I wasn’t afraid of them. My sketches are pretty good.

    Tom Hiddleston might see it. I might make Tom Hiddleston laugh.

    I took a deep breath and ignored the fear’s tacky false fingernails digging into my windpipe, and pressed Yes.

    Hope you like it, Tom.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      You make a great point. I made the mistake early on to seek the approval of my friends and family only to find out that they were not my target audience. You said, “This video would be seen by people I didn’t know. Total strangers.
      People who didn’t know or, presumably, care, that I was not cool.” That line is spot on. Strangers have no idea who you are. They only glimpse your art. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s the reason I try hard to find new readers and not try to persuade those closest to my real life.
      Thanks for sharing!

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Sefton, I enjoyed your imagery including “ready to spray me with a revolting coat of lick” and “fear’s tacky false fingernails digging into my windpipe.” Good practice.

    • http://www.storiesworthsharing.net/ Mirel

      I thought it was great, Sefton.

      I promised myself I wouldn’t read, I’ve got so much work, but a glance at your beginning pulled me in immediately

      Great imagery, some great lines, and I think I’m repeating great too often :-)

      • Sefton

        Thank you! -Sef

    • Susan Anderson

      Well, I don’t know if Tom liked it, but Susan does. I liked these lines: a wall of mandatory bottle-green uniform and rebellious cheap High Street shoes. and: People who had survived fifteen, come out the other side punching the air. I think most who survived fifteen can relate.

      • Sefton

        Thank you. -Sef

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    So needed those words going into the new year! I have ideas that terrify and excite me, so I find less risky (and less rewarding) things to occupy my time. I know I have stories to tell but the first time one of my posts reached several thousand people and I received criticism something in me changed. I believe I grew but I also became more cautious. I’m still working past that fear. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    • Sefton

      Criticism is hard but for every negative comment you get, you can think, my writing touched that person enough for them to batter out that message on their keyboard. That’s brilliant! And they clearly think I am strong enough to take their criticism – also brilliant! I’ve had some nasty comments, but I have to just acknowledge that and move on. If I reply to my negative reviewers (though most negative comments are Anon, I notice) then I treat it as an exercise in extreme graciousness…

      Hope this helps,
      Sef

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      Beck,
      Thanks for your thoughts. It ain’t always easy, is it? :)
      There will always be critics. That’s why is so important to have places like The Write Practice where we cheer each other on. Whenever you have one of those moments of doubt, come visit Joe’s Place (The Write Practice) and hang out with other artists who are going through exactly the same thing. We’re here with you.

  • Lisette Murphy

    This was a fun one! And this is my first posted response! Hope you like it! I ended up writing for half an hour!

    I took a deep breath as I turned away from my father to face the dark hole infested with cobwebs. I shuddered again at the thought of being the only one who had the guts and the lack of weight to crawl in and retrieve the gem. My father stepped forward to give me some encouragement, but i’m nine, I need to grow up. I hate spiders, but I want to save my mother and little brother. i have to. I must now. i take another deep breath and let it go as I step timidly forward. I crouch down and without hesitating put my arms in front of me and crawl head first into the damp tunnel. I feel around, clearing the webs from the path so I only have to inhale the dust. As I crawl deeper i feel something on my leg. I scream and bang my leg on the wall to get it off as well as my head on the ceiling in my spaze attack.
    “You alright Molly?” My dad calls from the opening.
    “It was just a spider on my leg.” I reply,”Is it gone”
    “I think so. Just keep going. Don’t pay attention to the spiders.”
    “Okay.”I try to sound brave, but he was was not convincing, my father is a terrible liar as am I.
    I continue to crawl and grope about muttering to myself that there are no spiders, until finally I reach a cavern. I see the gem in the middle glowing with magic, but the room is filled with every sort of spider known, mutated and unknown. I do not have the energy to scream or crawl back. All I can do is sit in fear.
    How will I help my mother and Tommy now? I wonder.
    “Molly?” My father calls again.
    “Yes?” I choke, surprised to have found my voice at all.
    “Do you see spiders?”
    “Yes.”
    “Remember, there are no spiders. You can’t see them. And if you can’t see them, they can’t see you.”
    “But I see them.” I say with a trembling lip.
    “Molly, listen, can you see the gem?”
    “Yes.” I said confidently, that I was glad to see.
    “Is it glowing?”
    “Yes.”
    “Are the spiders moving?”
    “Yes.” I say losing my confidence.
    “Close your eyes.”
    I did.
    “Can you still see the gem with your eyes closed?”
    “Yes! I see the glow.” I exclaim as loud as I dare.
    “Then go for it! Keep your eyes closed, but go to the gem!”
    I lept up, smashing spiders as I went and only opening my eyes once I reached the gem. I reached for it, not looking anywhere else. Just before my first finger laid on the gem the largest, ugliest, hairiest, spider I have ever seen, crawled on top of it, showing it fangs. I screamed and took a step back, hearing the crunch of several more spider bodies being smashed and noticing for the first time the spiders creeping up my legs. I snatched the gem and ran screaming. I lept into the tunnel letting the gem roll ahead of me as I frantically moved through the tunnel to my father. I thrashed as much as i possibly could in such a small space, hoping to kill all of the spiders, but disturbing many more in the process. At last I reached the end. I reached for my father as he pulled me out with the gem in hand. I collapsed on the ground trembling and only finding strength to grab the biggest rock i could find and viciously smash any spider that came near enough to be smashed, that had come out of the tunnel. For the first time I felt more powerful than a spider as big as my foot. I did not fear spiders anymore.

    Please comment! I would love feedback! Thanks for reading! ;D

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Lisette, Congrats on your first post. I liked your story, the pacing, the back and forth between Molly and her father and the payoff at the end.

      • Lisette Murphy

        Thank you! I’m glad you liked it!

    • Susan Anderson

      Wow! Is this a metaphor? If it isn’t, it could be. There are a lot of abstract lessons here. I love that your Dad needs you and you need him to conquer your fears, to reach your goal.

      • Lisette Murphy

        Thank you! I just made that up as I went it was really fun.

  • Vicki Boyd

    She sat nervously laceing and unlaceing her pink ballet shoes around her slim ankles. Nervous sweat trickled down her body, running betwee her breasts and down herback. She shivered. The makeup, artfully applied to her face, was a sticky morass, and she was careful not to touch it.

    Tonight she would dance an important part. She would be alone on stage. Her stomach lurched at the thought. Dress Rehearsal had been a comedy of errors. Milliken, the coreogopher, had yelled at her almosy every third bar. If he was unhappy with her performance tonight, she would be relegated to the chorus for the remainder of her career. It would be better to die tonight than to dance badly.

    The music swelled in the background, her cue to move into the wings. From her new vantage point, she could see the entire stage. The White Swan and the Prince floated and twirled thier way through a long duet. She allowed the music to capture her, willing her heartbeat to join the melody. Slowly the strands of the music wound through her body.

    Behind the intense stage lights, she could sence the audience. It was a tightly coiled beast, ready to strike down the unworthy, or prodigiously praise the trancendent. A truly proficent dancer could become the embodiment of the music.

    Poised on her toes, a last wave of self doubt crashed against her. Her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t swallow. Her feet wanted to run, not dance. Then the cords of Her Music flowed into her. It captured her feet, her arms, and her hands. Mind gave way to the expression of emotion through motion. She floated, on toetip, across the stage. She was the Black Swan.

    • ruth

      This was beautifully written! I was with you all the way. I acted on stage during my teenage years and identify with the terror before performance and the fear of the audience. But once the cue is there, the love of the moment takes over. Hope you get to be the White Swan one day! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Michael Marsh

      I don’t think you need the word nervously or nervous in the first paragraph. Let the action do the work. You did a good job of conveying the feeling without the modifiers.

    • Susan Anderson

      Good line: It was a tightly coiled beast, ready to strike down the unworthy, or prodigiously praise the transcendent.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      Vicki,
      I liked the building tension. It reminded me of my few times on a stage, struggling to hold onto my lines before I was ushered on. The sweat and the jitters mingled with near paralysis. Like Susan my favorite line was, ” It was a tightly coiled beast, ready to strike down the unworthy, or prodigiously praise the transcendent.” Thank you so much for sharing!

  • ruth

    For so many years she had tried to ride that bike and failed. It was an embarrassment and a source of endless taunts by her siblings. Lousy balance and endless crashes. Finally her sister agreed to teach her in the privacy of their big garage. Shaking with nervous anticipation she began the diagonal traverse across the empty space, willing her body to win the battle. Finally she was able to stay seated for the short distance. The real trial would be at the summer lake house and the serpentine, narrow roadway surrounding the lake. Parked cars narrowed the roadway, which rose and fell over hilly terrain and offered cracks and gravelled edges to challenge a biker. In her favor, few cars travelled the road in daytime. Her body knotted with tension, she followed the others around the lake drive. Teetering precariously on the bike she made it most of the way until she swerved too close to a parked car and raked the side with her handlebars. “Oh no!” Had anyone observed her? Without daring to stop and assess the damage, she hastily continued until she reached the safety of their cottage. Swerving triumphantly into their driveway, she crashed unceremoniously onto the gravel. But she had done it! The finale was not pretty but she had conquered the ride and knew the next ride would be smoother.

    • Michael Marsh

      I remember many times being more worried about people watching me try something new than the pain of failure. This feeling is nicely captured here.

    • Susan Anderson

      I could totally picture this. I could feel the victory.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      Ruth, as soon as you mentioned learning how to ride a bike my knees and elbows tingled from skinned memories. You did a great job describing the fear and the triumph despite the fall. Thanks for sharing!

  • Michael Marsh

    The fallen tree lay on its side, rotted and hollowed. Damp darkness
    oozed from its heart, but somehow fertile and inviting. Desmond like to
    sit next to opening and smell the fecund mix of cool air as it brushed
    his cheek. The darkness terrified and drew him at the same time.
    One day he ventured to sit in the mouth of old tree and feel the darkness
    on the back of his neck prickling the hairs into standing. The next day
    he slid a little back and let his feet stick out in the light while the
    cool dampness enveloped his body. Finally, he faced the
    darkness and crept in. How far did it go? He was sure it went forever,
    but he was going to find out.

    • Susan Anderson

      I hope you don’t mind, but your writing reminded me of my childhood memory. I used it. It’s true, we have to grope through the dim, the dank, the dark to actually find our way sometimes.

      • Michael Marsh

        I am so affirmed when someone responds to my writing by making something in it work for them in their own writing. I do it all the time. We all draw from the sources at different places and times take some out, add a little, mix it back into the collective source. Creativity feeds creativity. Thanks for the feedback.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      I’m with Susan. It reminded me of the countless days I spent with friends following creeks, catching fish and just exploring. Thanks for sharing, Michael!

  • http://www.literarysweet.com/ Heather Capewell

    The heat in my face deepened as my name was called. “You’re up next, kid.”

    All my life I’d loved this game and dreamed of playing baseball. A nagging, whiny voice sounded in my head over the roar of the crowd cheering in the stands. I squinted and wiped the sweat from my eyes. Father’s words repeated themselves on an endless loop inside my head as I warmed-up my arms and practiced my swing. If I closed my eyes, I even envisioned his scowled grey brow and wagging finger as he loomed over me.

    “You’d do better to just let the boys play,” he’d said.

    There had been no words of encouragement on this day either. Baseball wasn’t for silly little girls. But I’d finally proven myself to the coaches and made the baseball team. On this day, I became the first young woman in the history of my high school to play among the boys. All I had to do was show up and play. Shown up I had, but the game hadn’t begun. My tumbling belly and racing heart gave me pause.

    My eyes closed as my name sounded again. The umpire rose his dark brow and the catcher shook with silent laughter. Butterflies danced in my stomach as my fingers twisted over the bat. This was it. Now or never loomed before me as I eyed the nearest exit.

    Snickers sounded from the mound and a cat call whistle blew from left field. I stomped the clay from my cleats like a charging rhino. They would not win. I gritted my teeth and stared down the offenders. Even if their team won the game, I would not back down. The lump formed in my throat broke free and I tilted my chin into the air. “Bring it on,” I whispered under my breath and pointed my bat towards center field.

    A hush fell over the crowd and I strolled to the batter’s box. The forced smile and clenched jaw throbbed as I held them taught. My heart and ragged breath were the two sounds I heard as the pitcher nodded his head. A gleam shone in his eye as he wound the pitch.

    The ump yelled, “Strike one.”

    My shoulders tightened and rolled back. Two more strikes to go. The pitcher’s lips twitched; I retook my stance as the sweat beaded on my forehead and dripped into my eyes. My father’s voice spoke again, but this time I screamed back at it. This time when the pitcher released, the ball became his head and the head of every voice, every person, including me that had said a girl couldn’t play with men. All of them played on my fears and emotions. I laughed; I’d come so
    close to walking out and giving in to their bantering negativity.

    I swung hard.

    The pitcher’s mouth dropped as the clang rang out and the baseball dropped low into right field. It wasn’t much, just a single, but I’d done it. Coach gave me a thumb’s up and my teammates cheered. I’d conquered my dream and sealed my fate, and no one could ever take this day away from me.

    • Susan Anderson

      It wasn’t much, just a single, but I’d done it. I feel your success is summed up in this simple sentence. Good job, slugger.

    • Carmen

      Woohoo this was so fun to read, hope it is a true story ;) what a champion!

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      “…no one could ever take this day away from me.”
      Awesome. An act that probably took less than a minute transforms into something so pivotal. I love how the character fought back and ignored the naysayers.
      Thanks for sharing, Heather!

  • Susan Anderson

    She climbed the live oak tree. Her sister named it the “Hole Tree” for the portal in the middle of its trunk. Squirrels chased each other through it courting one another in spring. It was one of the so named trees on the ridge that usually one needed a buddy to ascend it. It towered towards the sun like an earthy parapet. She shoved a PVC pipe into a gnarled nook and inched her way up, solo. Another limb jutted out from its side, paralleling the enormity of the trunk and she found her perch at the joint, straddling it like a horse. Ivy and Spanish moss crawled around its bark, like clothing on Adam and Eve. She liked the quiet, the usual social kid. Pine, dirt, and citrus soothed her senses, calming her down from the exhaust of school bus socialization. Because the tree wasn’t naked and so covered, other critters found refuge in its bark. A slinky neon striped skink slithered quick under her leg. Without thinking, she stood up and ran across the trunk about ten feet away from the middle. Sky high! Up in the middle of the woods! Out there…out on a limb. How would she get back? How would she get back down to ground? Running back would be foolish and she lacked the coordination to pull off that kind of balance beam act. So she sat and straddled the faithful unmoving pony and scooted back, little by little. She reached the hole, the friendly hole, that made the tree seem as if it were a character in a fairy tale. She was safe. She climbed down the man made pole and stepped secure on a root, just above the ground. A foothold. A place to land.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      Susan,
      You had me when the story turned a the girl thought about climbing down. Been there! Climb, climb, climb and then…OOPS! It’s time to go back. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!

      • Susan Anderson

        Thanks Carlos for reading. It was fun practice.

  • Brianna Worlds

    Not sure if this counts XD I had to tweak what I’d written to fill the requirements.

    ~~~

    Gun shots of pink streaked through layered wisps of clouds
    that drifted like soft ash. I stood stock still, letting my head fall back, and
    sucked a crisp, cold lungful of winter air. I felt the oxygen burst through me,
    and I smiled.

    My mouth still quirked up happily, I stood, staring at the trees that lined the
    sunset horizon like lace, their snow-laden branches drooping. Ice shone off of
    every surface like diamonds, the sun setting them on fire, glorious icy flames
    encasing nature’s beauty.

    I saw the wonder in the world. I saw beauty and rarity where others dismissed it as mundane; I saw the elegance where others did not. I saw the extraordinary when others saw nothing at all.

    When I’d been younger, I’d taken pictures of these things I thought were wonderful. Things like the different carpet patterns in our house, the grain in the wood, the fall of sunlight on the stairs. These pictures were invariably found, judged as useless, and deleted by my parent who couldn’t see the wonder that had inspired them.

    As time went on, the wonder faded. How could it not, without the encouragement and nourishing that all young minds crave? I was taught to think ‘right’; I was taught to think like everybody else.

    Today, with a camera in my hand, and no one there to tell me what to think, I saw the wonder again. It slowly rose and engulfed the doubt and the fear of failure.

    *No, not failure*, I told myself. Failure to *them* did not have to be a failure to me. Maybe I could make them see the wonder, as I saw it now, weaving through the criss-crossed tangle of branches, begging me to capture its pattern forever; I saw it crystallized in every frozen droplet of ice that clung to each berry, branch, and tree. It leapt through me, joyous and singing and nothing could stop it then.

    I was alone and alive, with nothing but my words, my voice, and my wonder to take on the world.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      I love this, Brianna. Have you watched the Ted talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html) where Ken Robinson talks about how creativity is killed my modern education? Your passage goes right along with that theme. I felt your denial of ‘their’ rules with lines like, “Today, with a camera in my hand, and no one there to tell me what to think, I saw the wonder again.”

      Thanks for sharing. I think it’ll resonate with would-be artists who were told they shouldn’t be. Would love to read more :)

      • Brianna Worlds

        Thank you! :) I might have, I’ve watched so many Ted Talks by now I can’t remember them all! I’ll be sure to watch it again.

  • G102

    “41. Social Darwinists such as Herbert Spencer argued that:”

    Craig stared at the classroom timer for the fifth time, 2 hours left, still not enough time. Looking down at the page, he read the options calmly, and then he read it again. Weird, the none of the answers seemed the right one. The 10-year-old read it a third time , still no right answer. The ticking of the timer was starting to annoy him.

    Moving on to the next question, unable to tell the right option. He closed his eyes trying to remember the subject… he had studied that a few weeks before. What was the answer…? Man, was that timer annoying.

    “Oh no”. His line of thought just stopped as the image of Dylan the night before surfaced in his mind

    “Relax, you’re gonna do fine. Unless you blank out during the test, in that case you’re not getting in there anytime soon.” He said with a carefree smile

    “Dylan!”

    “Relax, mom, I’m just kidding. I’m sure Craig’s gonna get into the super-smart-kids school.”

    Only Craig himself wasn’t. Now, all he could think about was how his mom was going to look after she had campaigned to the whole neighborwood on how brilliant Craig was and how her prodigy son was getting into the best school of Palos Verdes. (Damn it, who was the idiot that thought it was a good idea to put the loudest timer in the world into that classroom?) This was like losing the football game all over again, except this time the stakes here much higher than a pretty trophy. For the first time during the test, Craig was so scared he couldn’t go on.

    Dylan would avoid him, not knowing what to say. Mom would be all about how the school messed up the results as Craig could not have failed. The only one who wouldn’t be upset was dad.

    “As long as you try the hardest possible, it doesn’t matter if don’t win. Life is not about winnin, it’s about staying in the game even when you think you’re losing.” he said after the football game fiasco.

    Screw that timer. Craig turned the page and continued his test.

    P.S: English is not my first language, so this would probably be very different if it was in portuguese.

    • http://www.carloscooper.com/ Carlos Cooper

      G-
      Thanks for sharing. Your chosen fear really hit home for me. I don’t miss the days of a ticking time clock and the thought of failing a test. You pulled me in and mixed it nicely with dialogue like, “Relax, mom, I’m just kidding. I’m sure Craig’s gonna get into the super-smart-kids school.”

      Now I want to know whether he made it :)

      • G102

        Well, thank you very much for reading it. As a kid, I remember what it was like being under a lot of pressure to have really good grades and I wasn’t even that smart. I figured that if you double the intelligence, you double the pressure.

  • Andre Cruz

    I agree, Carlos. You just have to get out there and keep going. It is easy to doubt your abilities as a writer, especially after rejection, but you need to learn from it and move on. Great post. http://www.andrecruz.net

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  • Word Smith

    The day had come. I’d written the speech and edited it, forming it into a tightly cohesive lesson on how to lay a metal-flake paint job onto a car. I’d never actually done it; I was sixteen, had never held a paint gun, never mixed paint and catalyst together or witnessed their reaction. Heck, I’d never even seen a metal-flake paint job up close, but I’d been reading hot rod magazines for years, and I knew every step by heart. I could do it in my sleep. I recited my speech in my head on the bus ride to school. This was gonna be great!

    The first four periods of classes went by as slowly as any I’d ever survived. Math, in particular, almost did me in. The attention I had to pay to the problems on the blackboard diverted my mind from the speech I heard myself giving, over and over. Even lunch, in the crowded, noisy cafeteria, distracted me so badly I left my tray half-eaten and hurried outside, to the relative quiet of the steps. Why was everyone talking so loud? Don’t they know I have things to think about?

    Now it’s fifth period: Speech class. The students are rowdy, teasing each other as they give their speeches, one after the other. Too rowdy – what’s the matter with everyone? I want to shout, “Respect, people!” The teacher doesn’t seem to notice; she tells the class to quiet down a couple of times, but no one seems to pay her any attention. Other students mumble their way through their speeches, barely projecting their voices over a whisper. More conversation, more laughter. The next student, the class clown, changes up the atmosphere. His speech is, as expected, funny and well-paced, holding the attention of every student. You can almost hear a pin drop.

    Mrs. Stephens calls my name next. Oh god! What was my speech going to be about? I thought I had it written out, but now I can’t find it! I’m paralyzed with fear. Still no conversation; every eye is on me. The teacher calls my name again, and waits.

    My response is a silent shake of my head. I find voice enough to tell her I’m not ready; I forgot about the assignment. She frowns, looking intently at me. She doesn’t believe me.

    “Isn’t that your speech you’re holding? Let me see that paper, please.”

    At that moment I feel my heart begin to beat again. “Oh, yeah. Sorry,” I respond, and walk to the front of the class. I hand Mrs. Stephens the papers I’ve clutched tightly in my sweaty hand for the last half hour. Before she can respond, I direct my attention to a speck of flaking paint on the back wall of the room.

    “This is how you do a metal-flake paint job,” I say confidently, seeing each step in my head as I go. The other students peer up at me with interest, but I don’t see them. I’m midway through the speech already, using my hands to illustrate sanding techniques, showing the proper way to hold the spraygun. When I finish there is silence, then one student says, “Cool.”

    I begin to breathe again.

  • http://www.adelaidewritewritewrite.blogspot.com/ Adelaide Shaw

    I’m a little slow in getting this practice done, but here it is. I don’t have a title.
    ———————

    “I don’t want to do it.” Seven year old Mary Jenkins was near to tears.

    “You have to do it. You know it good now.” Her nine year old
    sister, Jill, gave her a shove towards the door.

    “I told Miss Cahill not to pick me, but she wouldn’t listen. She keeps saying that your big sister always liked to do this. So, you do it, Jill. You know it better than me.”

    “No. It’s your class. I have my own poem to say. Come on. Mom and Dad are calling.”

    In the school auditorium the classes were seated on one side with the parents and friends on the other. After the kindergarten and first grades had marched up to the stage and sang their songs the second grade stood up. Mary Jenkins was the last to stand and climb the steps.

    “Hurry up, Mary.” Miss Cahill tapped her on the arm. “Pick up your feet. Let’s go, Class. Let’s go.”

    First the class sang “Yankee Doodle” with Tommie Costa doing a tap dance. Then came “Old MacDonald.” Before the last note faded away, Mary left her place in the back row and went behind stage looking for a place to hide.

    “Now Ladies and Gentlemen.” Miss Cahill spoke into the microphone . “Mary Jenkins shall recite “Trees,” written my Joyce Kilmer.” She looked to the two rows of children standing on the stage. Her head went left to right then back left again. “Mary! Mary Jenkins!” Turning to the audience she said, “Excuse me a moment.”

    The audience began whispering and snickering. From behind stage came Miss Cahill’s voice calling for Mary, then nothing that the audience could hear. Seconds later Mary was seen running down the stage steps and up the
    aisle to where the fourth grade sat.

    “You do it Jill. You do it.” Mary, almost crying, reached across three seats and yanked on Jill’s arm, pulling her up and out of her seat and past the knees of two children and the teacher who wasn’t quick enough to stop the two girls.

    Miss Cahill, back on stage, was trying to control the wiggling and chattering class. She turned just as Mary shoved Jill forwards to center stage. .

    “Well,” Miss Cahill, said, her hands fluttering to her hair and back down. “It seems that there is a change in the program. “ She bent down to Jill and in a hoarse whisper asked, “Are you going to recite the poem?”

    “We’re going to do it together.”

    Mary tried to scoot back, but with Jill pinching her arm, stood in place and nodded. Some in the audience laughed while others clapped. When the
    bustle died down the sisters began.

    “’Trees,’ by Joyce Kilmer.” Jill’s words, loud and clear, were spoken with confidence. Mary, holding Jill’s hand, began with a slight tremble in her voice.

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem as lovely as a tree.

    Jill stopped reciting at the end of the second line and stepped a little behind Mary. After a fractional pause and a slight push from Jill, Mary took a deep breath and continued on her own. When finished she accepted the applause with a curtsy and a bow.

    Adelaide B. Shaw

    • Lisette Murphy

      Adelaide, that was beautiful! I enjoyed it very much!

    • Brook Greene

      This is absolutely beautiful. The love she has for her little sister and the want for her to succeed twisted up and warmed my heart. A wonderful story. I live 5 minutes form the Joyce Kilmer forest and that poem is at the entrance of the park. It gave me chills. Well done.

  • Brook Greene

    i watch as the reluctance floods her eyes, i raise my arms once more trying to coax her to the side of the pool, ‘Come on baby, I will catch you, I promise.” I watch as my four year old eases a step forward then backs away again.
    Her little hands worrying through each finger, she glances at me and then looks long and hard at the deep blue water seperating us.
    Her arms are flared out with the bloat from her pink daisy floaties, ‘but momma.”
    she stammers, ‘no.”
    Her father ever present behind her not sure if he should just pick her up and chunck her in or let her conqour her own fears by doing this herself. Shaking my head no at him he backs away with a proud smile. Her blonde pig tails are culed up against her chubby face as she looks over the side at the water fueling her fears.
    “Okay sweetie Momma is going to swim to the other side of the pool and back so you can think about it, okay?” her little head bob leaves me smiling as i deep below the surface and stroke my way over to the other side. surfacing i can see she has drawn closer to watch me under the water.
    Popping up in dramatic flare makes her squel and clap her hands together, ‘momma you did it.”
    Wiping the water from my eyes and nose, ‘i did but you can do it too.” the longing to be with me covers her face, so once more i go under and after what probably seems like and eternity for her I spring from the July warmed water right at the edge making her sing with delight once more.
    Holding my arms up, ‘are you ready now?”
    Shaking her head with the utmost certainty, she leans in with her hands taking mine, hestating at the edge looking deep in my eyes. I almost burst into tears at the trust i am meet with, this is it. These are the moments when you know you have done the right thing by having them.
    “okay i am going to back away from the wall now.”
    “Okay, oh momma you got me?”
    “Always baby, always.”
    She graduated from highschool in May, we are at the lake almost ever day and she swims like a fish.
    Brook Greene

    • Lisette Murphy

      That was amazing, Brook! I loved it. I was very intrigued and anxious to see the outcome. That was wonderful! You did a fabulous job!

      • Brook Greene

        Thank but I now know how much I rely on autocorrect!

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