Sunday, February 03, 2013

Preparing for the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute Audition

Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute's Class of Creative Writing 2012

Some of you may remember when I made it into the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute last year. I'm trying out again this year and my audition is next week on Sunday at 1:30 PM in Oklahoma City.

As part of the audition I must bring four copies of an up-to-five-page writing sample that can be any combination of poetry or prose written after June 24, 2012. I've been working on that writing sample since the beginning of January.

So far I have written and edited: one "longer" story, about 1k, that takes up two pages; three poems that take up one page; and one flash fiction piece, about 500 words, that takes up one page. I have one flash fiction piece left to write. I will probably start work on it Tuesday or Wednesday since I still have to write my piece for the Overcoming Adversity Blogfest.

While I think my two prose pieces are pretty good, there might be something I've missed. To ensure they are as well written as possible, I've posted them on Figment for critique. SHOW ME YOUR FANGS, the longer piece, is here, and HEARTH AND HOME, the shorter piece, is here. I would appreciate it you read either one of them and told me what you thought either here in the comments or on Figment. I will post the three piece when it's ready.


  1. Good luck with getting in. I'll take a look at your pieces in a little while.

  2. Thank you both for the well wishes. ^^

    Michael, can't wait to hear what you think! Also, I got OCULUS in the mail yesterday (on my birthday too!).

  3. Okay critique for "Show Me Your Fangs" is up on Figment. I'll post it here too:

    With regard to story and creepiness, this short piece has it all. It shows incredible originality and has the trademark darkness I’m used to (and now expect) from the writing of Brooke R. Busse.

    As for the technicalities in the writing, I think the first few paragraphs could be improved significantly, but the writing definitely takes off at shortly before midpoint, and I don’t think any of that stuff needs to be touched or edited at all.

    Okay, so here is my critique:

    I don’t like the opening paragraph because you use “were” and “was” too much (it’s in every sentence and that makes everything passive). Consider this revision as an example (in quotes):

    “She knew the reasons for the rules. She heard them many times and thought they’d probably etched themselves on her eardrums by now. The first rule is always: “never break the rules,” but where’s the fun in that?

    And Spiderman isn’t scary.”

    Okay…I actually think you should strike as many “was” words out of this piece as you can.

    Another example (you write):

    She swayed lazily in the swing, one foot scraping the ground. The playground was deserted. Not unusual. Neither was the sound of rusty chains creaking—the wind fancied itself a child—but it made her glance at the swing beside her anyway.

    Okay by removing “was” it forces us to rewrite in a way that brings the creepiness to the forefront:
    “She swayed lazily in the swing, one foot scraping the ground. Rusty chains creaked; the wind fancied itself a child in the quiet. It made her glance at the swing beside her.”

    And then you say:

    “Plopped down in the arch of worn leather was a giant spider.”

    How about “A giant spider sat in the arch of worn leather.” I would also change the next sentence to:
    “Not the size-of-her-big-toe giant either, but a ‘bigger-than-her’ kind of giant.”

    I would change “so they bulged out” to “so that they bulged.”

    Everything after this line is perfect. Use “was” sparingly because it’s a word that definitely has a time and a place, and I think appearances of it after the “bulged” word are necessary for the flow of your piece so keep them in (keep in mind that “were” is a different tense of “was”).

  4. And about "Home and Hearth"...

    First off, this is an excellent piece. I like it more than the longer story I just critiqued. It’s extremely clever (it never occurred to me to think of flames as fairies).

    I love the atmosphere. However, I think the prose could be edited so that we got out of an omniscient point of view and into the doctor’s head, which I think could improve this sample. Here are my suggestions:

    I would rewrite the second paragraph as this (in quotations):

    “The doctor regarded the little girl with curiosity. She kneeled on the rug, blue dress hiked up so that it billowed over her thighs, and sleeves pushed up to above her elbows. Hands on her knees, she leaned into the hearth as if the fire attempted to suck her in. Occasionally high-pitched, childish murmuring drifted over his ears with enough quiet that their meaning escaped him.”

    See what I did by removing the mother’s point-of-view?

    The next suggestions come in the paragraph that begins “The woman sprang into motion…” I would rewrite this as (in quotes):

    “The woman sprang into motion. She flung open the lid to the wood box adjacent to the fireplace and snatched out two logs. She threw both into the center of the blaze. The girl hovered over the woman, clutching at her mother’s arms from behind with two sweaty hands.”

    And do you mean “lipstick” instead of “makeup” on her teeth from biting the lip? I don’t know anyone that applies makeup to one’s lips.

    “I am not worried” should be changed to “I’m”. In dialogue, people use contractions.

    Next suggestion comes in the paragraph that starts “You will learn…” My suggestion (surrounded by asterix) for a rewrite is as follows:

    *“Should you continue to foster, you’ll learn that children who come from trauma have different ways to deal with their past once it comes bubbling into the conscious mind. It’s not unusual for a child such as Aster, who’s lost everyone of importance to her, to imagine or create someone else equally as important to fill that vacuum inside.” The doctor glanced toward the hearth. Aster leaned closer to the fire, shoulders bunched, as if listening to a secret.*

    Then I would put three asterix to signify a point-of-view break so that you can go with Aster’s internal thoughts.

    And here are my suggestions for the rest beginning with “Aster knew…” (following the point of view break as I indicated would be necessary above):

    *Aster listened to the adults speak about her. She knew they didn’t want her to stay here…near her new friends, but she didn’t care. They couldn’t understand.

    Gripping a fire poker, she carefully rolled the new logs so the fairies could reach the unburnt side. They swarmed over the fresh wood, their miniscule bones poking out at odd angles, and their red skin stretched tight. When they finished gorging, they’d tell her more stories…of where they came from and why they left.*

    I changed the word “didn’t” to “couldn’t” because I think “couldn’t” implies more of something special about Aster.

  5. Michael, thank you so very much for taking the time to thoroughly read and critique both pieces! I need them to be as good as they possible can be so your feedback is invaluable.

    SMYF: I thought about all the "was" verbs, but I wasn't quite sure how I could edit them out while keeping the same basic content in the story. I'll look at it and try again, considering your advice.

    HAH: While I value your opinion on the point-of-view, I went with omniscient for a reason. It puts distance between the reader and the two adult characters, imitating how Aster feels toward them. Neither one of them is more important than the other to her. It also draws more attention to Aster when it switches toward her close view point.

    I will go over my dialogue again with a fine-tipped comb. And yes, I meant lipstick. -facepalm- Thank you for catching that. I find your reasoning behind the word "couldn't" intriguing.