Here are the choice tidbits from the letter I received last week from my Goddard MFA Advisor, Aimee Liu in response to my work:
"The promise [you make to the reader] is a net [that holds the entire book]. If you find yourself writing something that does not support this promise, it may not belong . . . ."
"[The primary people in the book] need to spring off the page as strong, visible, fully engaged characters."
"[Even in memoir] you have to tell the reader what your father [my main character] was thinking - or better yet, imply what he was thinking. What happened to him. What he did when you weren't present. You are our authority. This is your book."
"Tell the truth, not the facts. Dialogue does not have to the literal words you spoke, but should shimmer with the truth of the moment as you remember it or as you now understand it."
"If the facts of the moment were boring, you must either cut the moment or write it in a way that makes it both interesting and important."
"When you edit you are primarily doing two things. First cut away the redundant or extraneous. Then you dig deeper and write into the sections that are still superficial or obvious or boring but that you know are important. Write to the deeper meaning. When you edit you are making the text matter."
"Use all the senses all the time."
". . . the biggest challenge is telling the whole truth and risking the reaction of others. . . . Remember to tell the whole truth, not just the facts."
Seems like I thought I knew these things. But knowing them in my head and actually exercising these skills on paper are very different.
I'd better get back to work! More bum glue please.