Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Totally unbiased review by my Dothan High School English teacher

Tommy Adkins Butterfly on Flower
I want to share with you the totally unbiased review of my novel by my Dothan High School English teacher, Julie Wauthena Nall Knowles.

My dear Sharman,
            Thank you.  I listened as you read--I was overwhelmed--had difficulty  trying not to cry!
            Good readers like you almost always do well in English and history classes. You have amassed a veritable ton of historical research for Swimming with Serpents.  I love the title and its alliteration; I've known quite a few "serpents."  This is a well-done work--of course you can write--I am incredibly proud of my student.
            I've read only a few chapters.  The "Prologue" is good writing. You effectively "catch the reader's attention" . . . sentences flow into a great hook with a "tease" to turn the page.   --You've chosen the right tone and point-of-view: third-person omniscient limited to Snow Bird; third person focused on Cade.  --How many revisions had these few pages?  Hemingway said he rewrote the last sentence of "F to A" thirty-odd times (I think)--why? "To get it right."  The snowy bird of the first paragraph connects to the death of Snowbird as the white bird watches.  And--that owl!  In literature, an owl's hoot (as you know) = trouble, + owl, Athena's bird, the goddess of war.  Yes!  You've a recognizable analogue, too: The creator of the "Dr. Quinn" TV series had to bump off her "Snow Bird," Cloud Dancing's wife, in dramatizing the plight of the Cheyenne and--to have Cloud Dancing available to fall in love with the white, lady-newspaper editor.  Surely that connection will be made by readers.
            Oh, I notice all sorts of "stuff"--even "Beauty" and "Beast"! --My "Starlight," named for one of Almanzo Wilder's horses, died on my birthday when Durwood and I were in Louisville.  --You've set a conflict between the twins: at first, Gabe is "killed"--will he become a "sacrificial" character?  Also, Gabri-el: -el = God.  Will he become a spiritual leader?  In a few pages, your narrator had me laughing!  --Any English paper making me laugh earned its "A" then-and-there. 
            Swimming with Serpents is simply superb.  (Allow me an alliteration!)  It should win some category of an award.  Congratulations!
your English teacher!

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