I got this review of Verses Nature (In The Beginning Was The Heat) the other day and I’ve been grinning ever since:
What does this woman do when she’s happy? She kicks her heels and dances around the house but you won’t get the benefit of that. What I will also do is to give away the companion book, Verses Nature (The Making Of), for a limited period. Yes, you heard right: for free. No, I’m not after your email address and you won’t need to give it to me. So if you want to know just how ‘200% delicious sin and literary genius’ gets written, click here. No strings attached. Promised.
Daughter: Mum, your website’s crap.
Daughter: Like, seriously. Way too much text.
Me: But I’m a writer…
Daughter: So what? People don’t want to read all of that. Don’t want to scroll all day long. Just get to the point.
My daughter’s been telling me this for ages. I won’t say how long because I feel embarrassed to admit how resistant I was to her critique. I thought every word on my website had its justification and I thought my website was better than many I had browsed. But she insisted: it was crap. She hated the colour of the background. ‘Keep it simple, mum!’ She found the texts too high-brow and long-winded. She hated my book covers. Somewhere in me a voice was saying, what do you care, she’s not your target audience anyway. Somewhere else another voice was saying: she may have a point. Step one, treat yourself to a professional cover designer. Step two, it’s a website, not a novel. To cut a long story short, my daughter won. And do you know what? I’m glad she did.
From the most beautiful scene-setting in academic writing I have ever read:
The bus threaded through layers of terraced lands. The field was so lush and green that the colour seemed to have condensed into liquid drops striving to press a permanent imprint on my body. Outside in the scorching sun, newly planted rice was growing long and strong. with occasional gusts of wind, the tall, thin sprouts were blown towards the roadside, as if gracious hosts craning their necks in anxious anticipation of guests. From time to time, an unwieldy eighteen-wheel truck would honk by in anxious haste, loaded with sands and gravels, churning up dust storms to blur my vision of the summer field. It was early July of 2009. The construction of two national highways was in full force that meandered through the villages of Qiandongan towards the coastline. Patches of exposed earth were visible at a distance: they used to be farmlands and were now expropriated for the road construction. As the bus wound up and down the mountain road, it was interlaced with passing clusters of wooden abodes, brick houses and thatched huts; bent figures dotted the summer field and blended into a distance of green.
(from Disenchantment and Participatory Limit: Schooling at a Crossroads in Rural Ethnic China, PhD dissertation, Jinting Wu, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012. This award-winning thesis is now published and available for purchase.)