Fridays With Dale: Critiquers

Dale Angel


By: Dale Angel


In my writers Critique group, I’m a presumptuous chicken among eagles. I’ve had my feathers pricked ripped, yanked pulled, plucked and my wings clipped by my peers…but not without good reason. My pen was careless. It didn’t stop or have any respect for periods, much less acknowledge apostrophes. It goes past commas, too. I had to recognize that real life is not made up of run-on sentences.


I’ve had to dump the clichés too. Then there are the dangling participles. I found out we had been meeting too often. I’ve been told I had to quit keeping company with them. There’s more. The colon and its cousin the semi-colon, I was reluctant to become involved….in their family things.

Tenses, present tense and past tense, they confuse me. I get lost moving from yesterday to tomorrow. Sometimes, I don’t know where I am. I love question marks. I like frivolously sprinkling them along the words and allow others to come to their own conclusions. I felt it wasn’t respectable to burden others with my personal ideas or interpretation of a situation.

I admit I have answered the questions before I’ve asked them and asked questions I never answered, even with several dictionaries, I still stumble over misspelled words….mine. This sentence war has weakened me What with nouns, adjectives and verbs I’m still in combat…although on my knees.


My absolute favorite is exclamation marks! I live on them! Most of life is made up of either crisis or joy. That demands emotion. I need them! But, I have been informed, I can only use a couple per thousand words. It’s chilled my passion and made me frigid in my love affair of words. I was so in love with them. It seems a pity to waste an exclamation point.


It’s apparent I’ve been disrespectful to these tools. The run-on comma-splice; the incomplete fragment; and subject-verb agreement; the pronoun antecedent. I ran over them with no concern. They don’t register in my pen as words fall out on the paper as I write along, I perceive them not. I’ve been treating them as common with lack of courtesy. I lived that way.


Now, I’m in rehab, a critique group. I’m exposed. I must acknowledge my weaknesses, admit openly my failures and reform myself and do better. I get up every day with resolves to pay attention to the signs. I’m going to take note and use the tools judiciously…I just keep falling off my intentions. See there it is again my pen takes charge and puts down these silly sentences. I know I need discipline.


The brave volunteers in this war, I honor.


‘Critiquers.’ Doesn’t that word just send adrenaline to your fingertips? It makes my pen quiver. It makes me want to toss it around bend it, impale it, step on it, squeeze out its juices, or kick softly until it yields itself to a sensible sentence.


My group of Critiquers is strong. They have to endure the slaughter of words and tremble as they accept a paper they know is lacerated, mangled and hemorrhaging with stuff like my story about me cooking candy over the campfire while everyone else is gathering up their camping equipment during a downpour. Sometimes truth is painful.

They suffer quietly with sighs and an occasional moan, they hiss, no one cusses…..out loud. They are weary, yet they persevere in their duties of damage control. I haven’t shared this with my group yet. When I do, it will be axed…no… reduced to six simple concise, succinct lines that says everything, like a good tender steak you won’t even have to chew…I’m a presumptuous chicken but I fly with eagles.


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