Sunday, February 17, 2008

A special thanks to Victor Banis, Dorien Grey, and Herman Chin

Saying of the week: "You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there." -- Alan Bennett

This week I have two wonderful writing experiences to share, and three people to thank.
The first is Victor Banis. A few weeks ago, I sent out a request to my online writer/reader group requesting that someone read my latest manuscript, hoping they would provide some thoughtful feedback. Victor was quick to respond, and I knew I had hit the jackpot. I emailed him my four-hundred page novel in four separate sections (fearing that if I sent him the whole thing in one manuscript he would run for the hills.) He crawled through each page, meticulously editing, making thoughtful suggestions, and basically giving me a needed lesson in the fine art of crafting prose. Working with Victor over the past two weeks has been a joy for me, because as I incorporated his adroit adjustments, my story began to shine brighter than I thought possible. He brought needed modifications to almost every page, and the difference is remarkable. Victor, I’ve come to learn, is a master at his craft, and working with him has certainly improved my writing skills.
Interesting enough, my story is about a gay tennis pro who decides to coach a straight teenaged tennis player, both trying to make it big on the pro tour. Working through Victor’s suggestions, I realized that I was the one being coached, and I began to see my novel’s main characters in a new light: Victor and I became the characters in my story -- a comparison I hope Victor will approve of.
Thank you Victor. I’ve learned more about craft over the last few weeks than I have in the last two years.

The second person I need to thank is Dorien Grey. About a week before Victory began proofing my tennis manuscript, the Editor in Chief of Zumaya Publications, Liz Burton, asked Dorien to read and comment on Changi, a war novel I wrote which Zumaya plans to publish in 2009. As with Victor, Dorien has donated his valuable time and effort to read through my manuscript, and come back to me with a list of suggestions on how to improve the story. Dorien’s focus was more on story substance, drawing from his experiences aboard Navy ships in the fifties, where Victor’s comments were on style and crafting prose. But Dorien’s comments were equally important, and I am every bit as grateful for his comments as I am for Victor’s.

I think it shows a tremendous amount of class when writers put their own projects on hold in order to help their fellow writers. I am grateful, truly grateful to have come to know these men through the process of writing.

The third person I have to thank is my lover of 15 years, Herman. He and I partnered for the first time to write a travel article for QBliss magazine. We have traveled to more than 150 destinations outside the U.S. over the past ten years, and we have now begun to write about our experiences for, a gay online magazine. I thought that writing together would be a stressful affair, because we have such radically different writing styles, but it has been a gratifying experience that has brought us closer together. Not to mention that it’s been tons of fun remembering all those wonderful experiences. Our first article is about the 10 days we spent in Bagan Myanmar (Burma). We’ve included several interesting pictures. I’m not sure how long it will take QBliss to post it on their site, but wait a couple of weeks and check it out, it’s free. You can also read a condensed version on our travel blog along with several other destinations. If you like to travel, check us out.

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