• Waterhole Branch

Revise and Resubmit

By Suzanne Hudson/Waterhole Branch Productions

For And She’s Off/blog by Mandy Haynes; go to

Above: partial cover of All the Way to Memphis, short stories

My husband is fond of saying that you’re not really a writer—a real writer—unless you can’t not write. And he can’t. Not do it, every day. It’s amazing, someone with the discipline to get up in the wee hours—a habit he cultivated and coordinated with his day job at a hospital—and sit for several hours, researching and tapping away. And as a retiree, he still gets up before the sun and goes to town on the ol’ laptop. I don’t get it. I’m perfectly fine with not writing—at least for periods of time (sometimes years). But ultimately, well, it just kinda comes over me, like a fever—I gotta have more cow bell—and I can’t not write.

So I guess I’m a real writer, technically. It takes all kinds, I reckon.

I’m fond of saying that you really, really, truly don’t want to piss off a writer. You just don’t. If you do, you’re absolutely going to see yourself drawn, quartered, and splayed like road kill all over the page. I warn people all the time—it’s all fair game, especially if you go and make me pissy. Especially since it takes a whole ginormous mountain of aggravation to make this even-tempered somebody angry--this somebody who, on top of my experience with patience and my nonjudgmental bent, as a retired counselor, avoids conflict like a scared rabbit (I know, this adds to certain issues; insight is not a stranger to me). And yet . . . some people are just plain stupid. Some people just need killin’ (figuratively, of course). And so for me, writing is sublimely therapeutic. And not for the faint of heart.

My mother, although a huge fan of my words, occasionally, over the years, made her longings known for my writing to take a turn: “I wish Suzanne would write something that could be printed in the Ladies’ Home Journal.” Translation: “sweet—not dark and violent and disturbing.” And I did write one (count ‘em, folks) sentimental little story with her in mind. It was called “Novena,” about a mother-daughter caretaker situation, loosely based on the elders in our family, and I tied it up in a really pretty bow, and everyone sang “Kumbaya” in angelic harmony and all was right with the world, happily ever after, amen. But I’m not too taken with sentimentality. It very often comes off as dishonest and self-serving, a congratulatory pat on one’s own back, a “look how good and decent and downright wonderful I am” moment. Not always, but often, since there are plenty of not so good writers out there who go that sappy route. All the time.

The authors I admire are the fearless, Flannery O’Connor ones, the ones who are not only willing to draw and quarter those who are foolish enough to anger them, but to draw and quarter themselves, through characters. That takes real guts, the honesty of it, the willingness to say, “Well, I think I’ll put the knife in, just so, slit my thorax in a jagged cut down the middle, and let the disemboweling ensue.” Literally, guts.

And it’s very obvious when it’s dishonest or downright phony, i.e., sentimental and self-absorbed. There are a gazillion examples out there in blog world, but I’ll refrain from naming names. Instead, let’s take this Mandy Haynes, a real writer. She manages to combine both the uplifting and the everyday with a skin’t-kneed tomboy’s willingness to bust her ass, show the warts, tell the truth. She even once offered to “throat-punch a bitch” for me, which I truly appreciated, but I suggested that my handling it via fiction would keep us all out of jail. Mandy Haynes. Balls to the wall. It’s damn refreshing. And like a good man, it’s hard to find.

I warn people not to pick up my work if they are squeamish or up-tight or prim little ________s (fill in the blank; if I do, my sailor mouth will go too far). Go and buy some true romance, flip through a lifestyle mag, or watch the Hallmark channel, if you need it sterile and sweet. Subscribe to one of those folksy, feaux-sincere-ish, one-trick-pony blogs that aims to manipulate emotions rather than inform them. I’ll just go on my merry way and purge my demons in my own style, a path that sets me free—and trust me, it won’t be pretty. But they’re my demons, after all, and this writing thing, if you’re really honest with it, is way, way, cheaper than psychotherapy. And I do have some issues to work through, people.

Twice this year, I’ve submitted and been told that my writing was too angry, and it’s because of the aforementioned issues. The first time, it was for a university anthology. I revised, resubmitted, and was accepted. The second time it was for Mandy Haynes’ blog, And She’s Off. This is my revision, this right here. There’s still obvious anger, of course, as I haven’t worked through it all, via my writing; that’s a work in progress. But I did change the focus of this piece, from the piece of crap alleged adult human who done me wrong, to the writing process itself. Mission accomplished, Mandy?

Revision is sooooo important!

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