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RandiLynnMrvos

Saturday, February 15, 2020


                                                                                                                                                                                                           Photo: Toa Heftiba
WON'T YOU PLEASE, PLEASE HELP ME?

It's a mystery to me.  Some writers ask for editorial help and then ignore the very help they seek.

I've noticed this behavior in one-to-one meetings, on Twitter, and at RLM Editorial.  Writers contact me to get help with various parts of the publication process.  Some want advice on writing a query letter.  Others want a manuscript critique or line editing.  Then, I never hear back.  Maybe they are put off because I ask them to supply important elements of the story:    
  • A description of the main character
  • The main character's want
  • The obstacle(s) that get in the way of the want
  • What's at stake (why the reader should care) and what will happen if the character fails 
  • The theme of the story
Why is this required?  The reason is, I want to bring awareness to the essentials of a story.  I want to find out if a manuscript has been well-thought out.  Filling me in on the story gives me an idea how much time would be needed to work on a project.    

I'm not the only one who feels that these points are important.  

Former literary agent and editorial consultant Mary Kole says, "Make me care.  A lot of queries don’t tell me what’s important to the character, what’s at stake, how things go from bad to worse for them.  People read to bond with people.  Even if you’ve got a blockbuster plot, the character is still important because they’re what will pull me into the other elements of your story." 

Award-winning and internationally published author K.M. Weiland says, "Character motivations drive your story. The protagonist’s motivation is what informs his goal, which is what creates the plot.  And motivation always comes down to your story’s stakes.  What’s at stake for your characters?"
               Photo: Helloquence 

Best-selling children's author Debbie Dadey says, "Something important must be at stake in the story to make us care.  And the more heart-breaking important it is to our character, the more we care.  Look at your story to see what is at stake."

Addressing theme is equally important.  Soheila Battaglia, a published and award-winning author and filmmaker, defines theme as not a summary of a piece of literature; it is a universal statement, moral lesson, message or idea that addresses the experience of being human.

Mary Kole believes the theme or Big Idea is what you want to say about your book.  She says, "that she's high on book themes these days. You, as the writer have one responsibility: you have to as Ursula Nordstrom says, 'dig deep and tell the truth' about the world as you see it. That plays directly into the why of your story, as in, why are you as a person telling this story to the world now?" 

As these top-notch writers indicate, knowing the stakes and the theme are necessary in crafting a story.  And yet, the very thought of identifying the stakes and theme may scare off some potential clients.  

But who really knows?  There could be a multitude of reasons why I never hear back.  And there's no point in trying to analyze why they ignore the help they've asked for.  I am not offended.  It's their choice.  In all sincerity, I really do wish them the best.  They must figure out if they actually need help.  It's not an easy decision for some.  But they should know that many writers sought out the advice at some point in their careers.  They didn't ask for help and then ignore it.  They asked for help and followed though.  

✌ and 









Wednesday, January 15, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Mattia Ascenzo
JUST TELL ME NO

For the life of me, I can't understand why some folks have a hard time saying no.      

I noticed this practice as I reached out to people in my hometown Lexington, Kentucky to see if they would be interested in my first book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell 
I sent emails, letters, school visit packets, and press releases. I asked:

  • librarians (one of them was an acquaintance) if they would schedule storytime presentations
  • teachers if they would set-up author visits 
  • journalists if they would write an article about the inspiration for the book—a dying dog that was rescued from a country road in Kentucky and nursed back to health 
But none of them responded. 

This behavior shocked me.  I assumed that the people in my community would have been supportive.  At the very least, I thought they would have had the courtesy to say no. 

Then I found out that this behavior is common. 
  
According to Hank Davis, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Guelph in Canada, this situation is common.  He calls it a 'passive no.'  He says, "It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re face-to-face, talking to them on the phone, texting, or emailing them—they are far more comfortable having your request die of old age than actually refusing it. They’ll leave it for you to figure out that whatever it was you wanted just ain’t gonna happen."  

Davis states, "One benefit it provides is that everybody gets to save face and, most of all, everyone is saved from the dreaded “C word”—Conflict."  

Conflict likely came into play when Davis asked an acquaintance if he'd be interested in joining his men's group.  Davis didn't receive a reply and says, "I disrespect the man who chose not to say “no” to our group. He avoided ruffling feathers, but at what cost? Personal integrity? Cowardice? Disrespect? Do those sound like admirable qualities? Sometimes “no” is the most honorable and respectful thing you can say to someone."

Victor Lipman, author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, is on the same page as Davis.  Like Davis, Lipman says people are kind of lazy and they’d rather avoid the hard stuff. 

"This may account for why increasing numbers of my harder-edged, shall we say, business messages go unanswered. Conflict is unpleasant, as is the notion someone might not be doing something all that well. So, if there’s not a clear expectation that a definite answer is required (and sometimes even if there is) it’s easier and less stressful to ignore and forget it," says Lipman.

There are more reasons besides avoiding conflict as to why people brush aside a request.  Lipman says, "Between texts, tweets, Facebook messages, LinkedIn emails, traditional emails, voicemails, and others, it’s easy for any single message to get lost in the shuffle.  People are too busy.  Everybody’s rushing and multi-tasking, zipping from one activity to another with mobile devices glued to their ears and fingers—and in a generally frenetic environment it’s easy to have small things like messages slip through the cracks."  

Photo: Jon Tyson 
Despite the reasons, organizational psychologist and best-selling author Tasha Eurich believes we should be more cordial.  

Eurich encourages us to say no when you need to and states, "If someone asks you for something that you can’t or won’t do, for goodness sake, just tell them.  Believing that no response is the new no is passive aggressive, cowardly and rude. Even if a stranger sends you an email, give them the professional courtesy of a reply that says, 'Thank you so much for your request. I’m sorry that I can't help you.'  It will take you less than 15 seconds and they’ll be out of limbo. As aptly noted in The New York Times, 'Most of us can handle rejection. We can’t handle not knowing.'"

I completely agree.  Not hearing back from fellow Lexingtonians made me anxious, sad, and discouraged.

There could be many reasons why I never heard back.  It's possible that they didn't want to hurt my feelings.  That they thought I was too fragile to handle a rejection.  But they would be wrong.  What they didn't know is I'm a tough cookie.  If they are not interested in arranging a storytime at the library, having an author visit at school, or writing an article for the paper—I can take it.  Writers are used to rejection.  To the ones I reached out to, I would say show a girl a little respect.  A little kindness.

And for the love of God, just tell me no. 



Sunday, December 15, 2019


                                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo:  Alex Rosario
DEFENSELESS

I would have never guessed that buying groceries and shopping for clothes would make me sick. 

Years ago, when my daughter was a pre-teen, we'd shop at Abercrombie & Fitch.  Minutes after making a purchase, my head would pound.  This happened every time we shopped there.  I finally figured out that the in-store scent was giving me a headache.

I've had migraines for over twenty years and I'm still trying to figure out all of my triggers.  It's kind of depressing because the list keeps growing.  In addition to fragrances, I've discovered wine (red and white) gives me headaches as well as preservatives and additives in processed foods.  I'm particularly sensitive to soy lecithin, an additive which is found in foods like chocolate candy and certain soups (Progresso tomato basil)—and this sucks 'cause I love chocolate and tomato soup.

But what is troubling is, though I can avoid certain foods, I can't avoid certain fragrances.



About 7:30 one morning while I shopped for groceries at Kroger, my head began to throb.  The store reeked.  I encountered a strong-smelling cleaner and the overpowering scent of pine, cinnamon, and cloves.  These odors were a double whammy for me.  Though I tried my best to avoid those areas, the damage was already done.  One whiff was all it took.  It was a real bummer because the grocery shopping had to be finished and there was no escaping the cleaning odor and holiday fragrances.   

I was frustrated about being so sensitive to fragrances.  So, I did a little research and found an online article.  In the WebMD piece "Fragrance Allergies: A Sensory Assault," medical journalist Colette Bouchez says, "We do have some control over what we allow into our homes and other personal spaces -- we can toss that magazine with the inserts or switch shampoo -- but it can really become an issue when our senses are assaulted in common areas, such as the workplace or a college classroom, places where we have to be."  

Olfactory researcher Pamela Dalton PhD, MPH says, "It's a loss of control over your personal environment.  And for some, it can have serious personal health consequences."   

Dalton adds, "From hair shampoos to carpet shampoos, from laundry detergent to shower gels, from home sprays to hair sprays to moisturizers, cosmetic, and personal care items, the scent industry has literally exploded.  And for many people, it's a real sensory overload."   

Photo: William Bout
"Sensitivity to one fragrance or odor can snowball into a crippling multiple chemical sensitivity that leaves its victims defenseless in the face of an ever-widening number of chemical odors and fragrances," says Dalton.

Bouchez reports that "some experts aren't even sure if it's the fragrance itself that is the real culprit, or just one part of a mix of chemicals (as many as 200 or more) that are used to create both fragrances we smell and the masking agents used in unscented products."  

Bouchez adds that there are a growing number of people who are sensitive to odors.  The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology calls this condition multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).  Experts agree that people with chemical sensitivities should try to remove themselves from the offending fragrance.  Avoidance is the most effective treatment.  

Really?  I wouldn't call avoidance a treatment.  Nor, would I say avoidance is always possible.  Grocery shopping is a weekly necessity and if my family wants to eat, it's difficult to avoid Kroger.

There is no denying being exposed to strong odors or fragrances interferes with my daily routine.  It not only causes my head throb and it does weird things to my brain.  It's like I'm trapped in a fog and I get confused or can't think clearly.  My mind is totally f*cked-up.  Luckily, there's prescription medication that works quickly for me.  Otherwise, I'd never be able to do the things I love such as composing blogs, mentoring writers, marketing my brand, or editing new work.

Who would have guessed that Kroger would be as troublesome as Abercrombie?  Crazy, huh?  Luckily, I am not entirely defenseless.  There are three things I can do during the holiday season:
  1. shop at another neighborhood grocery store
  2. take prescription medication proactively on grocery day 
  3. communicate my concerns about store cleaning with the manager
By being aware of the chemicals and fragrances that I might face, I don't feel as helpless.  I'm armed with possible solutions that could make a difference because...when we can't change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

✌ and 












Friday, November 15, 2019

                                                                                                                               Ozzie tormenting playing with Putty
HOPE

2019, early winter
There is no sign or trace of my beloved stray.  I miss Putty.

2007
When our daughter was in middle school, she wanted a cat so, we adopted a short-haired domestic cat named Ollie.  Not long after we brought him home from the Humane Society, a black and white stray with green eyes and a pink nose appeared at the deck door.  I called him Putty.  This adorable stray came to our house for food (which he received) and to hang out with Ollie, separated by the screen door.  They were pals, yet their friendship would be short-lived.

2015
Ollie was happy and healthy but after eight years, he began to lose weight.  The blood tests revealed that his kidneys were failing.  He had about three months to live.

I wasn't prepared to lose Ollie.  We decided to follow the veterinarian's suggestion by giving him subcutaneous fluids which would extend his life.  But Ollie would not have it.  It made him miserable so, we decided to stop the treatment.  Poor little Ollie.  Towards the end of his life, he had no interest in eating or cleaning himself.  By Christmas, he weighed less than four pounds.

2016
It was devastating to see Ollie suffer. I had to make the heartbreaking decision to put him down.  On that day, Putty came by.  It was like he knew he would never see his buddy again.  Having Putty on our deck comforted me during that difficult day.

For the next few months, the Mrvos house was quiet.  Too quiet.  I missed having a cat in the house.  So, in March we adopted Ozzie...and he and Putty became friends.  Safety separated by the screen door, Putty and Ozzie would play—well, Ozzie would play, meaning Ozzie tried to swat Putty's tail and Putty would look at him indifferently, like man, you are one crazy cat.

2019, early summer
One day in June, a large orange tomcat began to hang around our yard.  I made the mistake of feeding it one evening.  As a consequence, he claimed our yard as his own.  One morning the tomcat snuck up behind Putty and attacked him on the deck.  Luckily, I was able to break up the fight.  Putty seemed relatively unharmed; but a week later, another fight ensued while I was away.  When I returned, clumps of Putty's black and white fur clung to the grass by the driveway along with a smattering of orange fur.  It was apparent that Putty bore the brunt of the battle.  Since then, I haven't seen Putty.

2019, early fall
But I am hopeful he will return.

Neighbors one street over told me they had seen Putty shortly after the fight.  It was good to know that he survived the attack.  But it's been four months and Putty has not returned.

This is Kitty.  Could she be Putty's daughter?
She has green eyes, a pink nose
and the same facial marking as Putty.
Strangely, during Putty's absence another cat showed up at our house.  Since it's tiny, it may be a female.  I call it Kitty, not a remarkably creative name but it seems fitting.

Kitty looks like Putty. This little critter has big eyes that look like they've been marked with black eyeliner.  Its left ear had been clipped straight across.  This procedure, called ear-tipping, is performed while a cat is under anesthesia and indicates the cat has been spayed or neutered before it is re-released to the wild.  

Kitty is terribly shy, but it cautiously approaches the back door to be fed.  It is amazing to me that another cat "adopted" us so quickly after my stray disappeared.

This pretty cat brightens my day, though it will never replace Putty.  Because Putty was a character—from the way he meowed (deep, harsh and gravelly) to the way he slept on the deck with four paws pointing to the sky.

I constantly think about Putty.  Whenever I'm in the kitchen or taking a walk through the neighborhood, I am on the lookout for Putty.  Whenever I'm writing or relaxing at night with a book, I am thinking about Putty.

You may think it's strange that someone could be so attached to a stray.  But I think it's because I earned his trust.  At first, he would never approach me.  Over time, he came to me when I called him (he learned his name) and he let me pat his head.

One day I got an encouraging sign that my stray is safe, wherever he may be.  At lunchtime, I work the Jumble Daily Puzzle in the newspaper.  With this puzzle, one has to unscramble four words and then arrange the circled letters in the words to form a bonus answer.  The first scrambled word was UPTYT.  PUTTY.

2019, mid fall
While my husband and I were taking a walk, we spotted Putty four streets over from our house.  Putty turned to look at me when I called his name, but he didn't come close.  I was crushed.  Didn’t he recognize me?  Was he afraid of me?  Surprisingly, a few days later he trotted up to our deck.  I fed him and he ate well. But since that visit, he has not come back.

Maybe he is leery. Maybe bad memories of the cat attack prevent him from coming by more often—who really knows what a cat remembers?  But I hope that he will remember the Mrvos house as a place where he is always welcome.

2019, late fall 
I should be working on writing projects, updating my website, and concentrating on marketing.  But my mind drifts.  I find myself worrying about my adorable stray.  I miss his meow and his silly way of sleeping on the deck.  Kitty is sweet, but Putty stole my heart.

Many months have passed.  The temperatures are dipping into the low thirties.  I set up the heated cat house on the patio.  Hope gives me peace and strength and it keeps me going when all seems lost.  I am optimistic that Putty will return.

And when that day comes, there will be food, water, and shelter for Putty the cat.
✌ and 
November 15, 2019

To leave a comment, email Rlmrvos@gmail.com

Mid-winter
I am awestruck.  I am relieved.  I am grateful.

Early November, Putty returned. 

And you can bet...my beloved stray will be getting plenty of loving care.








COMMENTS:

Qu’est-ce qu’il est mignon! (He's so cute!) Dale H.

I always enjoy your writing. Nancy B.




Tuesday, October 15, 2019


                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo: Debby Hudson 
FIRST

My first publication came as a complete surprise.  It was something that hadn't been edited.  Something that hadn't been submitted.  Something I hadn't expected anyone would want to read.

The piece was actually an exercise for those of us enrolled in a class at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky.  Writing Practice was taught by artist and writer Laverne Zabielski.

For the exercise, Laverne instructed us to begin by writing on whatever came to mind for ten minutes without lifting our pens.  This practice was supposed to free our internal editor and to help us go with the flow.

We were encouraged to put down random thoughts and feelings.  At least, that was my take.

When we were given this in-class activity, I felt a little panicky and didn't know what to write about.  Writing off the cuff scared me.  And ten minutes seemed like such a long time.  What could you possibly write about for ten minutes straight?

Feeling pressured, I pressed my pen to the paper and began scribbling some random thoughts about my workplace.  In a short moment, the words began to form a pattern, a scene, and a theme which revolved around my relationship with a co-worker and the way she made me feel.

Class time was over when we finished, so Laverne asked us to leave our work with her.  As I left the building and walked down the sidewalk to my car, she hurried outside to catch up with me.  Laverne was smiling and all bubbly with excitement.  She waved my paper and said, "Randi, I want to publish your story."

Laverne was assembling an anthology of work from Lexington women writers titled A Sense of Place.  This became my first publication and it gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of writing as a career.  In fact, my piece was published in the same anthology as Crystal Wilkinson, the award-winning author of Blackberries, Blackberries and The Birds of Opulence.  My story was published as "Untitled."  At that time, I didn't understand the importance of titles.  Today, (slightly edited) it would be called "Rebirth."

                   UNTITLED

Photo: Chuttersnap
     It was an accident—a murder by accident.

     And the petals came floating in a free-fall from the apple tree covering the ground in a dappled white.
   
     Our friendship had soured.  Time after time, she tried to pull me deep down into her negativity.  And I needed to distance myself from her.

    We had worked together too long, known each other too well.
   
     I am who I am.  Not better than her.  Just different.  More positive.  Upbeat.
   
     This was something she couldn't grasp.

     Something she couldn't stand.
   
     It was an accident—a murder by accident.

     And the petals come floating in a free-fall from the apple tree covering the ground in a dappled

white.
   
     What made her follow me?  Her eyes on my back.

     Jealousy has no boundaries.

     And she was much too close.

     I whipped around, reached out to distance our bodies.

     How was I to know that a push would end so tragically?
   
     Away, away she fell.  It seemed like an eternity until she hit the pavement, awkwardly.
   
     And the petals came floating in a free-fall from the apple tree covering the ground in a dappled white over her hands and face.
   
     I felt more relief than panic.  Relaxed.  Calm.

     She was gone.
   
     Funny how a reaction ended one life, but renewed another.

✌ and 

To leave a comment, write to Randi Lynn Mrvos






Sunday, September 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Guillaume Bourdages
BUT I DON'T WANT TO BE A PIRATE RACCOON-CATCHER  

I'm a little prejudiced when it comes to the wildlife that wanders into our backyard.  I'm fond of foxes and frogs.  I can put up with possums.  But I'd rather not have any raccoons—even if the French word for raccoon (raton laveur, meaning young rat bather) is adorable.  

In the past, raccoons had been a nuisance.  About twenty years ago, a family of raccoons made a habit of raiding the garbage can every night, which prompted my husband to secure the bin with a bungee cord.  Since then, these masked raiders have not returned—until recently.   

Not long ago, a raccoon was lounging in the top of a neighbor's tree.  In broad daylight.  Raccoons are supposed to be nocturnal so, there's no telling what this critter was up to.  It might have been looking for food, but these creatures usually feed at night on nuts, seeds, fruits, eggs, insects, frogs, crayfish—oh, and sometimes tuna.  How do I know?

A few weeks ago, an enormous tomcat appeared in our neighborhood and terrorized my sweet stray cat Putt-Putt.  He attacked Putty twice in our yard.  One time, I was able to break up the fight.  The other time, I arrived too late—evidence of Putty's white fur lined the driveway.  So, in effort to keep Putt-Putt safe, I contacted the Humane Society.  An animal trapper by the name of Sarah suggested that I catch the troublesome cat and have him neutered.  She assured me the cat would become less aggressive.  So, I met Sarah and borrowed two steel traps. 

She instructed me to fill two trays with tuna, one for each trap, and then set the traps outside at dusk.  When evening rolled around, I placed one steel cage near the deck and the other in the backyard under a fir tree.  I checked every half hour, but by bedtime, the tuna was untouched and the cages remained empty.  This was discouraging.  I had given up hope of catching Putty's tormenter.    

The next day around 6:30 in the morning, I stepped out back to survey the cages, still feeling doubtful that an animal had been trapped.  But low and behold, the tomcat was in the cage by the deck.  And judging by the growling and the scowl on his face, he was not too pleased.      

I figured the other trap would be empty.  As I tramped through the dewy grass to the fir tree, I approached the cage.  The tuna had been eaten.  And staring right at me was what seemed to be a strange-looking cat with a mask.  It took me a few seconds to realize that I had trapped a raccoon.  The memorable line about a puffy shirt from a Jerry Seinfeld episode immediately popped into my head, "But I don't want to be a pirate"   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mPIqVOBFis  but in this case it was more like:  But I don't want to be a raccoon-catcher.
Photo: Anna Salisbury

When I called Sarah with the Humane Society, I told her of my luck.  She made plans to pick up the cat in a few hours, have him neutered the next day, and then re-released into our neighborhood the following day.  Sarah explained that feral cats need to come back to their neighborhoods because they have a homing instinct and if they are placed elsewhere, they would die.  She assured me that after his operation, he would be less of a menace.  

"And the raccoon?" I asked.

"We don't handle raccoons," said Sarah. 

"Wait.  What are you saying?"

 "You'll have to release him yourself," said Sarah.

I hadn't bargained for this.  All I wanted to do was keep Putty safe.  And now I had to find a way to release a raccoon and keep myself safe.  Lifting the locks and having my fingers close to an unhappy raccoon was not going to happen.     

There had to be a way to release this critter without both of us getting hurt.  I had time to think on this.  Since I needed to pick up weekly groceries, I figured perhaps my Kroger peeps could help me figure this out.  They were thoroughly entertained with my predicament—but they offered no sound advice. 

I returned home an hour later with bags of groceries but without any new ideas on freeing a raccoon.  It was worrisome and distractive.  I needed to edit picture book manuscripts, update my website, and work on marketing my book.  But I couldn't concentrate.  I went out back to check on our backyard guest.    

When I approached the trap, the area looked like a battle had raged.  The cage had moved ninety degrees.  The back part of the cage was filled with mulch and dirt.  The towel I had placed on top to keep the creature calm was torn to shreds.  To my surprise, the raccoon had vanished.  It had managed to slide open the ring locks and let itself out.  

You might think that after this episode my dislike for raccoons has grown, but actually, my heart has softened.   

Raccoons are kind of cute, that is, from a distance.  

They have an IQ higher than that of cats—which I learned while googling how to release a trapped raccoon.

And raccoons are blessed with nimble fingers and puzzle-solving skills (thank goodness)...because this writer would still be wondering and worrying how to release a tuna-loving raton laveur.    

✌ and 

Feel free to leave a comment at: Rlmrvos@gmail.com     
Comments:
I love your blog… interesting subjects and thoughts. Shelley D.
I enjoyed catching up with you on your blog post.  Nancy B.


    

Thursday, August 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                            Photo: Nadine Shaabana 
STOP

Sad to say, sometimes being shy and soft-spoken does not earn respect.  Trust me, I know.  I'm not a forceful, in-your-face kind of person.  When I have an opinion, I speak up quietly.  So, at times this gentle approach can be easy to dismiss and brush-off.

One time during my French class, several students discussed (in French) whether the Impressionist composers were influenced by the Impressionist artists.  Being familiar with the topic, I tried to voice my opinion and referred to the handout our instructor had given us, which stated that the Impressionist composers had been thought to be influenced by the art of the time.

Unfortunately, a fellow classmate got off track and started talking about the Romantic composers.  The Romantic composers created music in the early to mid-1800s, well before the birth of Impressionism.  The Impressionist composers created music toward the end of the 1800s and these musicians focused on mood and atmosphere much like the Impressionist artists.  

As much as I tried to steer the discussion back the Impressionist composers, this classmate ignored my comments and insisted that the Romantic composers were influenced by the Impressionist art.  It was as if he had said STOP, I don't give a rat's ass what you are saying, I'm not going to listen to you.  And in my head, I'm thinking, just because I'm soft-spoken doesn't mean I should be treated disrespectfully.  It was hurtful, but eye-opening.  In hindsight, I should have said:  "Lisez."  Read.  All he had to do was read the handout if he wanted to understand.

Maybe you're thinking: buck up Mrv.  Be more convincing, more forceful in stating an opinion.  But in this case, it was useless in trying to clear up the confusion.  This student only wanted attention.

It's not worth the energy to interact with people who enjoy being center stage.  What it really comes down to is, they have little self-awareness, because if they did, they'd see themselves as know-it-alls who really know nothing at all.  They simply are not interested in what others might have to tell them because they believe that they already have the information.
                                                                                                      Photo: Priscilla Du Preez 


Unfortunately, the same thing happens with a few of my mentees.  Sometimes when I give advice on submitting a manuscript, they brush my suggestions aside.  It doesn't matter to them if I have experience querying agents and having a book published.  They think they know better.  Then, these writers email me several weeks later wondering why they were rejected.

So, my first question to them is:  okay then, did you follow the guidelines?  Of course, they say yes which drives me crazy when I know that they haven't.  How do I know?  Some of my mentees submit to my publisher and I am aware of her specific requirements. When I ask them what they submitted, I find out they didn't include illustrations, which are mandatory for this publisher.  Still, they are in denial because they feel they couldn't have possibly screwed up.

Now, on the other hand...

Some people are earnest and they sincerely want to discuss a topic.  They want clarification.  They want to understand.  They may even want to apply what they learned.

One evening after ballet class, a fellow dancer confided in me that she had a hard time remembering the sequence of steps at the barre.  When the class does barre, we perform a combination of steps in a particular order to a piece of music.  It's mentally and physically challenging.  There can be a lot to think about and keep straight.  Otherwise, you may find yourself pointing your toes to the front when everybody else is pointing their toes to the rear, or rising on your toes when everyone else is doing a plié (a deep knee bend), or...well, you get the picture.

I have trouble remembering the steps at the barre, too.  So, what I do is count the number of each ballet movement in a sequence.  A combination may have two pliés, a grand plié, three tendues, and four rond de jambes, and an elevé so I focus on the numerical values:  two, one, three, four and one for this sequence.  When I explained this little trick, her eyes lit up.  She told me she liked this idea and that she appreciated learning a technique that had the potential to make the barre easier for her.

It's not often that I encounter (dare I say, stubborn) people who ask questions, but resist assistance.  When these circumstances arise, I think of my mother-in-law.  Years ago, she used to say, "What are you going to do?"

The answer is:  nothing.  Nothing will change close-minded people.

Luckily, most of my classmates and mentees are open to discussion.  They don't take offense when an opposing view is offered.  They enjoy hearing helpful opinions and suggestions.  Best of all, they are respectful.  And they listen...

even when I'm shy and soft-spoken.

✌ and