Andrew Magrath (biggrumpy) wrote,
Andrew Magrath

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On a Casser-roll
Look! It’s an entry that is not imploring you to review my writing. Yippee! There has been a ton of stuff to write about since I last updated, so this is going to be your pretty standard throw it all together to make a giant casserole entry. Because some people get Andrew News from "friend's pages" and I don't want to take up a lot of space on said pages, I have made this a link form. You're welcome dear friends, you're welcome

I recently went back to elementary school which is normally cocaine for my ego. I swear I walk out of that building thinking that I am the greatest guy alive. This was not the case this time. I had to teach the sixth graders (who will be my first graders in two months or so). Sixth graders are really crappy human beings. They are the big fish at the elementary school, going through “too cool for school” syndrome and are just pains in the butt. My classes went well, but nearly as well as I would have liked. The great thing about the younger grades is that the are enthralled by anything you do, the utter alien-ness of English keeps them on the edge of their seats with excitement. They simply cannot wait to hear what strange new sound to come out of you, or laugh at my crazy antics. Sixth graders on the other hand, don’t care about anything. Grrrrr. I really could have used the ego boost too.

Ohh well, I did leave with a huge smile on my face because of lunch. Even though they served me a big bowl of tripe (or what I like to think of as nabe of the damned), I had a blast. I always seem to arrive on the day they are having this dish. It is a bunch of cabbage, meats (including squid – ick) thrown into a stew type thing. I wonder if they just have it everyday. It is not great, so I hope not. I got to eat a ton of pineapples though, fruit is a very rare and welcome desert here! During lunch the die hard students reconfigured the desks so they could all sit with me. I did not get to really eat lunch because the questions were just flying at me. I had to quickly eat as much as I could while they were configuring their next round of questions.

Most questions were in Japanese so I answered in my trademark broken Japanese/English with plenty of gestures style. It made me happy when the kids followed suit and really dumbed down their Japanese and threw in as many English words as they knew. For example they would replace “Nihon” with “Japan” even thought they knew I knew Nihon because I occasionally used it. The entire affair made me smile. I think part of just getting them to speak English is getting them to break the thought processes inherent to their own language. It is one of the reasons I am so bad at Japanese. I cannot seem to get out of my English reference frame.

It appears my story has been taken down. No more voting can occure. The annoying this is you cannot even read it anymore, AND I can’t see the comments – which really stinks as I was going to cut and paste them for prosperity. Ohhh well my friends sent comments via email which were more detailed and from more reputable sources. Thanks for the help those that gave it. If you didn’t, I hate you!

Okay so here we go my thoughts on the contest. I got some really outstanding comments from friends and strangers. The great thing about this kind of process is that people tell you things about your writing that you already know, but kind of forgot. I know that my prose are very scholarly and dense (a frequent comment), but I am so use to writing in that way that I tend not to even think about it. I am inspired by essayists who tend to write in this manner. Now I’m not saying this is good or bad, but is something that I haven’t really sat down and thought about in a long time and that was really helpful.

I also need to state upfront that my work had some problems in it. It was overly dense, I need to examine how I introduce my world’s lexicon, and I must rewrite sections. The grammar was also pretty flawed in a lot of places. When I wrote the book I wrote it all the way through and then went straight on to the next one, so I never really hit it with the grammar stick. The contest kind of fell into my lap and I didn’t have time to look at it too hard. I was also afraid that my story was kind of crap and didn’t want to have someone proof it because it may be a waste of their time.

What I got from this contest was that my errors are primarily mechanical. Everyone that commented said that the story itself was very interesting and sound, but the mechanics needed work. This was really reassuring to me. A lot of the other stories that I read were the opposite – not a good thing.

Now it’s time for me to comment on what I didn’t like about the contest, yeah! I like the idea very much, but I think it is potentially flawed. I am curious to know the mechanics of their vote program. Gather claims that it will filter the results of voting to normalize them. This is to presumably help offset people in the contest going on and voting a 1 on every story that is not their own. I only had around 20-30 votes so such a strategic 1 could hurt my score. There were also a lot of people voting 10s on everything. Sorry, but writing at this level is not an A for effort. I wish that instead of merely showing an average of the votes, gather showed the average AND the votes themselves. The average was not as helpful as I originally thought it would be and I was happier to receive comments. It would have been much more helpful to see how people voted. For example, if the spread was something like 1,1,1,1,2,,4,8,8,8,8 that would be much more revealing about the quality of my work than merely presenting the average 4.2. Perhaps it’s just I’m a mathoholic.

I have also on the whole been pretty disappointed by the other author’s work. I say that freely admitting that I am not sure if my work deserves to go to the next round. I hate to get all high and mighty here (I mean I realize my work is flawed and all) but still some of the other people’s stuff is pretty bad. The stories, the styles, the characters they all feel like you have read them every day or were taken right from some forgettable generic drama on basic cable. Yet many of these stories are killing in ratings. That is not to say there are not some real interesting reads out there, but the most interesting pieces seemed to get voted down to the bottom real quick. The mediocre stuff that you would never actually read is the stuff at the top, meanwhile the stuff I have loved languishes at the bottom, and I am left to wonder why. Despite my misgivings about only providing one chapter (I mean many great books take at least three chapters to get into), I like the idea of this contest. It seems a solid one in theory, but I found that in practice it has flaws. I truly feel these flaws can be fixed by the algorithm that scrubs the voting data, let’s just hope they do a good job with that.

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