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HOW IT RATES
This story is a tribute to 1940s organized labor as it affected the lives of an uneducated but determined sharecropper and his family. It is a testament to relentless will and overcoming extraordinary odds through persistent faith in one's self. Finally, it is a tribute to my mother and father, who I never understood during their lives, but understand perfectly now.
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Reviews of Labor's Day 17
by johnregan on 07/31/2012The story has some wonderful details and nuggets of description, but it needs to be edited and rewritten so you can tie all the loose ends together—it is disjointed in its present state but that is what revising and rewriting are for J . Things I liked I like the POV on the child in a union home and how that type of work and its participants are often enemy combatants – workers... The story has some wonderful details and nuggets of description, but it needs to be edited and rewritten so you can tie all the loose ends together—it is disjointed in its present state but that is what revising and rewriting are for J .
Things I liked
I like the POV on the child in a union home and how that type of work and its participants are often enemy combatants – workers against management and how union members take their work home and the union hall beliefs are shared with the family.
Specific description of toilet paper. I can see it.
Par 2 – "crisp belted housedresses” – effective description
Par 5 – I like Grampa Mulford as the name and think you should stick with that and not use Warren.
Par 8 – I like 'short and sour' instead of using short and sweet. Good choice here.
Par 11 – effective sentences here:
Years later, as now, Pete’s journey became a window through which I looked and saw myself looking back at me. It became an example of will mastering the improbable, and the power of self-determination over servitude.
Par 12 – love this sentence—it is the best in the whole story. I would make more sentences like this and take out the ones that are less effective: When he stopped for lunch, he sat on a tree stump, ate his biscuit and sausage, and studied Ohm’s Law.
This would be the sentence I would use to start the story and build it from there. It is a simple but beautiful sentence.
Effective sentences here – need more like these
He carried two of Kathleen’s hand-tied quilts, a pillow, and biscuits fresh from my mother’s wood-fired oven. There was bacon and ham cured in Grandpa Warren’s smokehouse, and mother said she always tried to sneak something special in his lunch bucket – a note in her own carefully scripted hand declaring her love and support of him.
Suggestions for you
Why are the quotations also italicized in many cases? I find this hard to read and distracting?
Way too many adverbs and adjectives, which lead to telling rather than showing. Try cutting out all the adjectives and adverbs and rewrite with as many graphic verbs and descriptive nouns as you can put into the story. I bet it reads 100 times better if you do that.
Par 1 - Replace “unsettling things” with something concrete like "smashing someone’s windshield or roughing up a scab" -- Readers crave specifics.
Par 2 – Show don’t tell.
Replace “archetypal homemaker” with a piece of action that demonstrates to us how she is this type. Delete “show of shows” – "Ed Sullivan Show" is enough.
Par 3 – “graduated from third grade” in quotes and italics (double emphasis; neither is needed) is distracting and could be written more clearly like below.
"For a man with a third-grade education, Pete provided food on the table and a roof for his family."
“Quite well” does not tell me anything. Be specific like I was above.
Who is Pete? Is this your Father? The name comes out of nowhere in par 3. I like Dad better. Maybe use the simple Mom and Dad for the story. Mom, Dad, Grampa. If there is only one Grampa in the story, the last name is not needed.
His story has not yet been defined or explained.
What does "ascent" mean and ascent from where to where? It needs to be explained here. Maybe choose a different word such as "escaping the cotton fields" and going to where ever he went from there.
I can’t tell where that is from this paragraph.
What story was told?
What story does he want to forget?
You need to show us here in par 4.
I cannot tell what you mean here.
Par 5 –
Define the grandfather – Warren first before stating is name. The reader does not know who he is and why is he a senior? Use Grampa Mulford instead.
"replete with rolling pastures and dense timberlands cut through with shallow and clear, cold creeks" – this is tired and clichéd writing. Change this to something original that you remember like how cold the water was when you stuck your hands in.
Tomboy is sufficient; "tomboy girl" is redundant.
Replace "adventures were limitless" with some actual adventures you took. "Limitless" tells me nothing. Show me in your action how there were no limits.
This sentence does not make sense:
"Two ponds stocked with catfish and overrun with sunfish were my favorite pastime."
Was fishing your pastime? If so, write it that way and choose a better word than pastime. Example: Fishing in ponds stocked with catfish and sunfish was what I lived for.
"My mother was fond of saying that “the dark drives Janet in. She was correct. Grandpa Mulford went to bed when the sun went down."
Are you Janet? Is the writer Janet? Again, it needs to be defined early in the story as I do not know who Janet is at this point.
Change "was fond of saying" to "said."
"Popular daughter" and "beautiful Kathleen" are again telling rather than showing. Rewrite these and show action that conveys popularity and beauty.
Suggest rewriting or deleting the generalization about college and/or college men—it does not add anything to the story. All different types of people attend college, so this generalization does not work.
Par 9 – typo
"I never heard to story about …" – should it be "the story"?
"The subject of my father’s journey from cotton fields to organized labor came up for reasons I cannot recall." – it is not until par 9, that you define your Dad’s story and journey – move this to the introduction so the reader can connect early.
"At the time, it made our family situation all the more inexplicable." – this sentence tells me nothing. Please explain it better for the reader or delete it. It does not add to the story. Every sentence should add to the story and if taken out would harm the story.
Par 11 – why is "basic electrical books" capitalized and in quotes? It does not need either and it is distracting. Also, the word "basic" tells me nothing. Perhaps rewrite like:
"In April 1940, Dad began his education by the flame of coal oil and devoured volumes about electricity that he ordered through the mail."
Bogalusa, Louisiana and its details seems to come out of nowhere. Describe these in the beginning so the reader can connect.
Overall, some nice pieces of description you could fuse together and rebuild the story from with clear sentences consisting of graphic verbs and descriptive nouns. read
by tishanddavid on 07/26/2012Hi! It looks like I get to review your story, Labor’s Day. Lately, Tish has been on a roll when it comes to rendering her opinions over on Triggerstreet, but she’s taking a break and pointed me towards your piece, particularly because she thinks it’s the kind of subject matter that I enjoy. And she was right. Right off the bat, I can tell that you put a lot of time and... Hi! It looks like I get to review your story, Labor’s Day. Lately, Tish has been on a roll when it comes to rendering her opinions over on Triggerstreet, but she’s taking a break and pointed me towards your piece, particularly because she thinks it’s the kind of subject matter that I enjoy. And she was right.
Right off the bat, I can tell that you put a lot of time and effort in to your writing – unions, and how they and work can define people. It also seems to be refreshingly relevant in today’s economic times; politicians and Big Business are finding ways to increase profits by slowly, but surely whittling away at the working class. Sadly, it’s a repetitive, historical cycle that keeps happening over and over again, with the fallout landing square on the backs of those who work hard for their livings.
Your writing style was clean, clear and concise. It’s both potent and mesmerizing. I was especially fond of your attention to detail that helped in your description of time and place (e.g., Mom resembling the maternal figures found during the Golden Age of TV, what Pete had to choke down so as to help him get through the Depression).
Somehow I don’t feel like this is simply a short story that was meant to stand alone. Instead, I would surmise that it’s a snippet from a larger work. If it isn’t and I’m wrong, then there are a handful of key areas that need to be fleshed out. I wrestled with ideas being introduced, but losing their thread or being reintroduced later with a vague payoff. The biggest one being the idea that he was a union man (the entire story is book ended by this description). You claim that it’s a nod to organized labor, but it doesn’t seem like much of a tribute. Don’t be afraid to explore the ‘unsettling things’ that happened with strikes. And what makes this brotherhood so important? Furthermore, there is no real mention how organized labor made him ‘feel like a man.’ Perhaps you could elaborate more. I also felt like there needed to be more detail on how all this hard work was wearing him down physically. The effects cotton has on the lungs, scars on the body, mental and muscular fatigue, sweat, dirt, etc. Sure, he didn't sleep much, but I need to see more of a sense of sacrifice to truly believe that some sort of relentless will was at play.
Characters: Where are the other people he worked with? Doesn’t he have any friends?? By meeting them, we can get a better idea of who he was as a person.
On page 3, it should be, “I never heard THE story about the exodus …
On page 3, only a suggestion: To say that the sharecroppers were in a drunken state … it sounds too much like a legal term. Perhaps you could use vernacular that was more in keeping with the time (e.g., soused).
Finally, any chance you might wish to go into what his motivation to escape abject poverty was built on? Was it because he did love his family and wanted to give them a good life? Did he do it for personal reasons (i.e., to feel like a man?). His wife seems to weigh in, but is that how he really felt?
Anyway, I enjoyed the story. Thanks for posting it and I look forward to more of your work! ~The-Male-Half-Of-Tish-And-David read
by nedford on 01/08/2012FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 1) My father was a union man. Organized labor validated him, made him feel “like a man.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers defined who and what he was far more than his family, or his God. (I love this beginning. This is good stuff.) 2) That whole first paragraph is really good. 3) crisp belted housedresses (crisp-belted house dresses... FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
1) My father was a union man. Organized labor validated him, made him feel “like a man.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers defined who and what he was far more than his family, or his God. (I love this beginning. This is good stuff.)
2) That whole first paragraph is really good.
3) crisp belted housedresses (crisp-belted house dresses – compound adjective needed)
4) Who is Pete?
5) Who is Kathleen?
6) “graduated from the third grade” (Did you want to say ONLY graduated the third grade?)
7) It would be toward the end of his life when he embraced those early years of sharecropping as having been the impetus for becoming a union man, the beginning of his transformation as a real man. (Very good)
8) You keep going back and forth from calling dad and Pete. Choose one.
9) re-told ( retold. You don’t use a hyphen when using the prefix RE - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/retold )
10) As a grandfather, he was remote and stern, with rules (First comma not necessary)
11) south central Mississippi farm land (south-central Mississippi farm land)
12) replete with rolling pastures and dense timberlands cut through with shallow and clear, cold creeks. (Overuse of adjectives. Remember, modifiers are not your friends. They are the lazy man’s way of painting a picture, and a poor one at that.)
13) The adventures were limitless for a tomboy girl (this may just be me, but I thought this was being told from the POV of a male. Your choice, but I would make it clear from the beginning.)
14) limitless for a tomboy girl (This is perplexing. Common wisdom says that you are being redundant. A tomboy of course is a girl. But I like it. Not sure why, but I do.)
15) If a fish had the misfortune of snaring itself on the hook at the end of my cane pole, it was in for a pleasant surprise. (I like this sentence, but why was it in for a pleasant surprise?)
16) OK, I see.
17) Is that Morgantown WV?
18) The honeymoon was short and sour. (Nice)
19) It would have been un-Christian to harbor hate against her husband’s mother. Instead, she despised her (good one)
20) the exodus from my paternal grandparents’ house (nice)
21) Another of Grandpa Warren’s rules forbade inside dogs, in his residence and all others he owned. (Didn’t you say there were dogs laying by the fireplace?)
22) He also forbade hard liquor on his property and promised eviction to any sharecropper caught in a drunken state. (What if someone got drunk somewhere else?)
22) “Pleasant Hill”, (“Pleasant Hill,”)
23) Pleasant Hill was Kathleen’s objective. Becoming an electrician was Pete’s objective. (This is good)
Except for your problems with quotes, you’re a very solid writer. A few instances of adjective abuse, but other than that the flow is nice. You don’t need to put dialogue in italics, either. It’s important to get this right if you want to get published. Fix these, and your work is competent enough to start submitting.
I supposed you’re guilty too of that same old “It’s not a story,” blah blah blah. Truth be told, nothing is really a story. A short story is more of a snapshot than a story.
It’s nice. So I’ll ask you the same question everyone seems to like asking. What’s the point? So he was a Union Man. So he was a sharecropper. So he got married. So what?
If it means something to you, that’s all that really matters. It is however too short to be publishable. I know this from experience. Keep working on it. You have some good passages in here. Keep building on it until it becomes something. Maybe you can even get to 50 pages and everyone will refuse to read it too.
I enjoyed reading it, though. I look forward to your next work.
by gapoz on 10/28/2011In the here and now, stories such as these take those of us old enough to remember, back to simpler days. Not easier days mind you, but simpler. I am a well worn veteran of TS that has been away for some time and was trolling the forums when I came across your plea for reviews, The synopsis caught my interest and I plunged in, feeling drawn to the story originally primarily... In the here and now, stories such as these take those of us old enough to remember, back to simpler days. Not easier days mind you, but simpler. I am a well worn veteran of TS that has been away for some time and was trolling the forums when I came across your plea for reviews, The synopsis caught my interest and I plunged in, feeling drawn to the story originally primarily due to your honest and sincere appeals in the forum.
I quickly realized that there would be little I could offer you in terms of refining your story. This partly due to the fact that I generally review screenplays and short films rather than short stories, and so am not well versed in the technicalities of structure in this form. Perhaps it may have been better to simply send you a note and tell you how much I appreciated your story, rather than creating a review. I know not. At any rate, I'm here now, so let me just say I found your story fulfilling. It not only gave a pleasant window into your past, but reminded me in many ways of my own struggles. It made me think. It made me better appreciate my life. What more can asked from a stranger?
What I can offer you I hope, is encouragement. It is obvious you have a love for writing, a flair for weaving your story in such a way as to bring the reader close, and a good balance in the descriptive elements and the actions. You have a style in your writing that I found both unique and engaging. I believe works such as these are a great benefit to both the writer, and to those fortunate enough to reap the fruits of your effort. The ten minutes of my life spent in your world was a treat, and I thank you for your efforts, and for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your work. Best of luck. read
by Lydia Mulvey on 09/29/2011Hi Magnolia I've read Labor's Day and I have a few comments for you. I actually loved this little snapshot of life in a very different America to the one we see today. It reflects the drive and passion that made the country into the most powerful nation on the planet. It reads like a documentary and I mean that in the best possible sense. The pictures you create are... Hi Magnolia
I've read Labor's Day and I have a few comments for you.
I actually loved this little snapshot of life in a very different America to the one we see today.
It reflects the drive and passion that made the country into the most powerful nation on the planet.
It reads like a documentary and I mean that in the best possible sense. The pictures you create are very vivid and you can almost hear the soft deep voice of a narrator, telling the story.
Thoughts I had whilst reading:
Page1: I love the opening line. Short and to the point. And uncompromising.
Page 3: "The honeymoon was short and sour."
I love this line. Why was it short? Why was it sour?
Spelling Page 3: "I never heard to story about the exodus" s/b "I never heard the story about the exodus".
Page 3: "The rules applied to everyone, including Pete; no dogs, no whiskey, no anything but backbreaking work."
Another line, that economically says so much.
Page 4: "She told me often that she could not take it any longer. I believed her, because I felt the same way."
I love this line most of all. Again, it's spare and concise but it says so much.
Page 4: I also really like the contrast of Pete reading up all there is to know about the basics of electricity with the light of a coal oil lamp.
Page 5: The line: "Pleasant Hill was Kathleen's objective. Becoming an electrician was Pete's objective." I wonder if that second "objective" might be better being deleted turning the line into "Pleasant Hill was Kathleen's objective. Becoming an electrician was Pete's."
Overall, this is an evocative little piece, that echoes with the life these people endured to get themselves out of poverty. I felt the ending was a little rushed and it wasn't really clear why Pete becoming a union man had caused the problems it did.
But that said, there is much to like about this concise and warm story.
Hope this review helps.
by Rich Berry on 09/20/2011It was certainly not a labor to read this well written piece. You put a lot of heart into it. Your recollections of growing up in a working class family (the treat of going out for burgers, watching T.V. together) bring the story to life. No criticism but I will make two suggestions - Old guys like me know what it means to "show up" at the union hall or job site in hopes... It was certainly not a labor to read this well written piece. You put a lot of heart into it. Your recollections of growing up in a working class family (the treat of going out for burgers, watching T.V. together) bring the story to life.
No criticism but I will make two suggestions -
Old guys like me know what it means to "show up" at the union hall or job site in hopes of being picked to work that day. I'm guessing a lot of readers don't know how that process works and the frustration of being passed over so many times you think you will NEVER get to work. Perhaps an explanation of the process.
When did your Father get his union card? When did he hold it in his hands and say, "This will change my life"? IMO this is as significant as his first day on a union job. Perhaps a few lines on this.
Overall a good story.
Good luck, RB, member IBEW local 94 read
by mollyazami on 09/20/2011I enjoyed reading this short story. It is written well and the flow, for the most part, was right on. I felt that the introduction of the father’s name “Pete” was the one part that didn’t seem to flow too smoothly, it was done in the middle of a paragraph such that the reader thinks a new character, a brother maybe, is being introduced. The maternal Grandfather’s name is nicely... I enjoyed reading this short story. It is written well and the flow, for the most part, was right on. I felt that the introduction of the father’s name “Pete” was the one part that didn’t seem to flow too smoothly, it was done in the middle of a paragraph such that the reader thinks a new character, a brother maybe, is being introduced. The maternal Grandfather’s name is nicely introduced using the beginning of a paragraph. The last two sentences of that same paragraph, however, do not seem to tie in to the previous fishing story. I feel you should add something like “So, that is when I returned to the house” to tie the thoughts together.
The word “tomboy” means a girl, it is redundant to say “tomboy girl”.
When the family moves to the cotton farm you write “Another of Grandpa Warren’s rules…” I don’t recall reading any rules previously, if there were ones stated, they were far enough away, that the “another” still doesn’t fit here. Just write “Grandpa Warren forbade inside dogs….”
I also noticed is that you wrote “Each morning in the winter of 1940…”, and then you have him driving off and staying several days near his work. Maybe it should say “Each Monday morning in the winter of 1940…”?
You referred to the narrator telling the story to people “…who needed to believe in miracles…” so I was expecting something miraculous, something magical, that happened out of luck or happenstance, not in the control of one of the characters. This is a story about Pete’s hard work and determination.
The story seems to need a little more emotion, or a little more of something to make it more moving or powerful. In general, though, it is a good little story and enjoyable read.
Thanks for sharing it. read
by jenjen21 on 09/19/2011I really liked this story. There are some beautiful imagery in it for example, ‘My mother was a woman whose floors shone and who applied makeup everyday and wore crisp belted housedresses she sewed herself’. That is so vivid in my mind, I can almost smell the bread baking in the kitchen. I liked the end of the story, that it al comes together nicely. So often, I read stories... I really liked this story. There are some beautiful imagery in it for example, ‘My mother was a woman whose floors shone and who applied makeup everyday and wore crisp belted housedresses she sewed herself’. That is so vivid in my mind, I can almost smell the bread baking in the kitchen.
I liked the end of the story, that it al comes together nicely. So often, I read stories like this that try to explain background of characters and it goes on and on with a lot of unnecessary details for pages and pages and this I really enjoyed about yours. It’s short and sweet and to the point. I enjoyed reading about the relationship between the main characters and the relationship of mother to daughter telling the story. I didn’t even realize it was from a daughter’s (girl’s) point of view when I started reading it, only realizing at the end of page 2 when she mentions being a tomboy.
I like the scary grandfather character and how he’s not a villain, just a hard working man who expects a lot from both his workers and family alike. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable piece. I did at times find it distracting that you went from referring to Kathleen and Pete as ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Pete’ especially in the second paragraph but that would be my only criticism of the piece. Otherwise, I found it highly enjoyable. read
by LiliFRobinson on 09/19/2011This story was very well written, structured and delivered. The plot was simple and the characters were not utterly complex, there was a goal to the tale and the reader does feel that it is acheived when the story ends. The pen seems effortless in the choice of words and expression and I was very impressed by the grace the language showed in this particular story. And even... This story was very well written, structured and delivered.
The plot was simple and the characters were not utterly complex, there was a goal to the tale and the reader does feel that it is acheived when the story ends.
The pen seems effortless in the choice of words and expression and I was very impressed by the grace the language showed in this particular story.
And even though the story was in the end quite simple, I did feel the need to keep going, to know more about the characters, the union man, to be satisfied with what was revealed.
I'm impressed, that was very good. I would be curious to read more of you.
Fantastic job! Thank you for that small escape from my world. read
by olewis on 09/12/2011I liked this story, it paints a great picture of the time and the setting – and really piqued my interest (I was very interested in finding out more about the Brotherhood). I also liked the narrative/writing style - it was relaxed and conversational and really helped create the atmosphere of the content. I particularly liked the “The honeymoon was short and sour.” line. ☺... I liked this story, it paints a great picture of the time and the setting – and really piqued my interest (I was very interested in finding out more about the Brotherhood). I also liked the narrative/writing style - it was relaxed and conversational and really helped create the atmosphere of the content.
I particularly liked the “The honeymoon was short and sour.” line. ☺
I’m guessing that this is the start of a much larger story, not least because we never actually meet the Brotherhood. Bearing this in mind, it might be good to slow things down a little. It’s very much a reflective story – particularly as it’s coming from the narrator’s mother – but we seemed to rush through a lot of the content very quickly. May be spend some time actually describing the cotton fields, Warren’s appearance, the sights, sounds etc. Basically paint of a picture of the time and setting (by the way I’m a Brit which is may be why I’m lapping it up so much ☺).
I’d also focus on the structure of the story as well. I got a bit confused when you flipped between the hamburger stand and the cotton fields. May be start by setting up the hamburger scene as the central point of the story – i.e. so it’s clear to the reader when you refer back to it. A recent example I read using this technique was Midnight’s Children (by Salman Rushdie) where the narrator tells the story to his partner, who frequently interrupts to criticize/comment etc.
Overall it was very good though.
Finally, I'd just like to mention that this is my first review on this website, so please forgive me for any mistakes or glaring omissions I might have made. read
- Writer: Janet B. Guillory
- Uploaded by: MagnoliaMoon
- Length: 7 pages
- Genre: drama
My first written work was over a hundred pages, hand-written. I was thirteen years old. Several classmates were impressed, at least they claimed to be. As the years passed, I increasingly wrote about anything, everything, short and long essays. One off-the-cuff forceful argument reduced to two pages resulted in landmark change in Louisiana civil law. (Most of my day jobs were in a legal environment, where writing is everything - each word is scrubbed before it becomes a brief to a higher court, a pleading, a contract.)
Throughout my life I have been driven to reduce thoughts to written words. Often, I re-read something I have written and experience something of a shock to read what I have written. I have been called "a wordsmith." Sounds good to me.
I am much closer than I have been in the past ten+ years of completing a series of short stories that sprang from a full-length manuscript; a comedy/drama drawn from a few years spent in the company of, and subordinate to a legal genius who was also a mad man; and, a piece of historic fiction that can be written no other way. The true story sounds contrived and implausible.
TriggerStreet has been my 'soul and inspiration' for three-quarters of a decade. If success comes home to Jan Guillory, I will have Dana Burnetti, Kevin Spacey and inumerable Cyber-Friends to thank.
In any event, it has been one helluva ride on TriggerStreet!
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