|Reviews for Exploring Life Skills|
| lianoid chapter 1 . 9/26
This was a lovely read. You've edited it perfectly, it flows nicely, and you have managed to create distinct personalities for the two main characters in such a brief period of time. I enjoyed the attention to the small details about the course and how it has impacted women historically. It made it relatable and realistic.
Fantastic piece here. Keep it up!
| Hedonistic Opportunist chapter 1 . 5/13/2015
When I’ve favourited a story literally seconds after finishing reading it, then you know that you’ve hit close to home or – at least – made me feel affected by this story. I don’t know – I honestly don’t know – but the first lines of this story, the first few sections make me feel furious. Furious that Stasia gets treated like a culprit for daring to speak her mind, furious that she’s punishing for saying something she believes to be right (is she being rude? Possibly, but I think it’s even ruder of teachers to kick her out, without a chance to voice her opinion. Personally, I think that a classroom thrives through constructive and thoughtful discourse, but I’m digressing).
So what can I say? I really like the central messages you’re giving us here, especially that of Stasia using her rebellion as a way of expressing herself. I reacted so strongly to her, because she’s realistic and definitely reminds me of some of the simmering anger I went through my teenage years and young adulthood. I can relate to this so much, and the anger I felt at the teachers in this story, I think, pretty much validated this. So kudos for that.
In another vein, I just like how realistically you capture the friendship between two teenage girls. There’s something romantic and very intense about these young girl-to-girl friendship, and I’m not just saying this because I’m queer. In fact, a former friend of mine had the theory that – before boys come into a girl’s life – female to female friendship have that tension that crosses the lines between the romantic and platonic. I am not entirely sure how much I agree with that, or whether any of the stuff I’m saying makes sense, but I do think that Stasia’s intensity and mild jealousy did capture those aspects I’ve outlined above. At the very least it made me think of them.
As for the teacher you’ve created in this story: Mrs Anderson – I think she’s a fantastic representation of what a teacher for such a class would be like. While one could argue about her sidelining boys (but then, again, one could always argue that girls get sidelined in other classes) what I particularly like about her is how calm she is. I like that she pays attention to Stasia and gently repriamnds her, rather than punishing her for her outburst. I like that, at the end, she teaches Stasia to become a more thoughtful and calmer person herself. It gives the story a very uplifting and hopeful message.
Of course, there are themes in this fic that are very important – some that I feel iffy about, some that invite a lot room for discussion (I did hint at a few here and there). But then I think those themes are important, and I very much respect you for bringing them out in this manner. I especially appreciate that writing for this was a lot simpler and crisper than your usual fare, which fits here, because this is slightly lighter than your other pieces.
| lookingwest chapter 1 . 5/12/2015
Yaaay finally get to review this, haha. Unless someone else beats me, but then I'll get it the next round I'm sure :) Anyway, I always want to talk about uses of the prompt for these pieces so yeah. I love how everyone's I've read so far is so vastly different from others. This one especially because of the setting and the age of the characters, I think. The growing up to be a "maid" idea was well executed when it came up. The eating reminded me of the stuff with the egg, and also perhaps even the insecurities that are eating away at Stasia about even her future. It all fit together on a literal and figurative level, and having those both entwined worked super well, in my opinion!
I liked the decision to place this in middle school because I actually found it really relatable. I remember I had to take home ec because it was actually a required course at my school along with tech ed, so we took both. I learned plumbing, programming a robot, doing laundry, and sewing all in one year, ha! Weird weird weird world too - because my teacher was also named Mrs. Anderson. Anyway - so loved the setting and found it quite realistic given the way that Stasia acts, honestly. It's defiant and a bit immature, of course, but I like how it has its obvious psychological hangups that feel resolved a bit by the end, too. While we don't get a lot of in depth setting description on say like, the schools' halls or the classroom itself, I do like the setting descriptions where it counts - like say, with the tattoos that Stasia and the narrator share together. This is a piece that's way more about "character" than it is anything else, and I thought that description and introduction of the sharipe tattoo was very middle school but also done really well technique-wise through a middle school crush like Ben and his comment about "trouble in paradise" - if anything, a smooth line like that from a middle school boy is like, the only thing that felt slightly unrealistic in this piece, ha! But I loved it nonetheless and overall, I thought characterizing their relationship through Ben was cool.
I think the scene where Stasia smashes the egg was my favorite, but I already talked about why I liked that dialogue. I just found that project even relatable, and her questions that arose from it relatable too - why learn this stuff? I felt that way especially with math, but I like that it was brought up in this home ec class. I remember actually, when I took it, that I never questioned what it was for, and I think Stasia knew too, but her frustration and anger and that psychological hangup of perhaps even anxiety about her future or even deeper subconscious anxieties about being a woman in this day and age really made it come through, especially when you take into account the backstory about how she ended up there in the first place. I don't think those sort of things every phased me in middle school just because we were all required to take these classes (boys and girls), but I love how this snapshot story really digs into just the education system in general and points of sexism.
The ending was very satisfying with the teacher hugging her. I really liked the character of Mrs. Anderson and how you incorporated that concept of girls never getting called on in classes because they're more timid than guys are - I've heard that, and it's quite true, even at the college level. Seeing a teacher dedicated to alleviating some of that is a signal of a good teacher already, but on a different level it also messes with Stasia's character and is totally what she needed at that point in her life. At the end I felt we'd made a breakthrough with Stasia, it was a bittersweet moment. The decision to also narrate this story through someone outside of Stasia and her best friend was a great choice as well, because it adds a lot of mystery to that ending bit on what made her start crying. It was a nice touch!
Best of luck this month, Nads, you've got a strong piece for sure! :) Thanks for sharing!
| deadaccount2019 chapter 1 . 5/12/2015
[Opening] I have to admit the opening left me a bit apprehensive. The tone makes it feel like the story is being set up for an anti-femininity message, which had my feelers on the lookout for faux-rebel cliches and extreme feminism. With that said, the tone of the first paragraph's last sentence becomes much more neutral, letting the reader know that it isn't going to be a story about a girl overcoming essential skills that everybody should know by adulthood.
[Pace] Once I read a little further in and had a handle on the overall tone of the story I restarted, and with the apprehension cleared up the story moves really smoothly. The balance of the Stasia's conflict and the narrator's growth were woven together very well, which keeps it from ever dragging or rushing forward.
[Character] Stasia comes across as a very human character. She is clingy in a less obvious way, craves attention, generally has a bad attitude and has no sense of responsibility and continues to act out more and more until she realizes she's in a place where people, particularly someone with authority, isn't going to validate her nonsense. She actually reminds me of several people I've known over the years, including a former friend. There's clearly more going on with her than we see in the story, but we get a very organic impression of her through the narrator's eyes. I'm curious as to what it is the teacher said specifically to set her off in the end, but overall she's an honestly unsympathetic character (something I'm always glad to see in stories).
[Theme] I really like how you incorporated the prompt in double meanings. There's Stasia's obvious outburst about becoming maids, and then the focus on girls/young women. There is also two stories going on; the narrator's observations of Stasia, and then in a less obvious way the narrator's own experience growing outside her safe bubble with Stasia. The egg assignment is a more obvious visual for baby, but also represents reponsbility. And eating... Well, the cooking for the class is handled as more of an afterthought, which imo tied in nicely with the tone of the end of the prompt.
| C. V. Atwood chapter 1 . 5/11/2015
This is my favorite response to the May WCC so far.
Plot- It isn't the most out there idea I've read, but it is certainly the most well executed. Often times people seem to rush short stories like they are some sprint to the finish, but your pace is perfect. You introduce the characters, give the reader enough insight to make them memorable, and then move on with the growing irritation Stasia has with Exploring Life Skills. It unfolds naturally up until the end. I think rather than telling the reader the campaign ended that day it may have been stronger to show it with one additional scene where Stasia listens in class.
Characters- This is a very character driven story. There aren't any crazy mysteries or action packed sequences to deal with so this is all about relating to the characters. You allow the reader to do this with ease. Stasia and the narrator contrast beautifully with the narrator's enjoyment of the class highlighting the absurd and unfair actions of Stasia. You also hit the nail on the head in terms of puberty by having one girl go full rebel and the other become nervous and unsure of the path her parents have chosen for her.
Setting- I know the setting is school and everyone has been to school, but all schools are different. I might add a line or two describing Mrs. Anderson's classroom just to make it even more clear it isn't the same old home ec. But on the flip side, I am so glad you didn't go crazy describing setting because most people know the basics of a school-desks, boards, those doors with the tiny window leading out to the hall. Actually, seeing Stasia through that little window as Mrs. Anderson talks to her might be good for that final scene I talked about earlier.
Enjoyment- All things said, I enjoyed this piece immensely. It took me back to middle school and I could immediately relate to the narrator because I was that girl. Also, with the more real world plot (as compared to the gods, robots, etc. I've read in some of the other WCC submission) I am glad you didn't get all flowery with your writing. This did not feel overly long and was interesting. I was not bored. Finally, it left me wanting to see more of these characters-not in this context as this was a good beginning, middle, end, but I think they could be plopped down well in a YA novel and I'd read.
| alltheeagles chapter 1 . 5/10/2015
RG Depth review
The introduction with two very different interpretations of the same course – that was very cool. I liked the second one better – there really SHOULD be such a course for, well, the really relevant things in life. Anyway, it also served to present Stasia as well as the narrator, so that was a good way of working in characterisation.
Stasia as a character is interesting – she has a gigantic chip on her shoulder against the world that she’s convinced herself is unfair to her, yet when things go her way she isn’t happy either. She’s the quintessential self-centred teen, really. In contrast, I like the narrator much better, with her inherent reasonableness and astuteness.
The plot is intriguing. Is this an exploration of first love between Ben and the narrator, or an account of a doomed one-sided infatuation of Stasia for the narrator? Is it a commentary on how rebelling against gender stereotypes has become a tired stereotype in itself? Or is it simply a story of a very good teacher? I’m picking up all these themes, and that makes this piece rich and multi-layered despite its short length.
The ending as it stands circles back to the starting in that it addresses the issue of Stasia’s behaviour in class. However, it feels to me like this is just an episode rather than a tale in full. I find myself still holding out for some kind of resolution. Well, I’d settle for at least an answer to the question of what Mrs. Anderson had said to Stasia.
| DarkWolfWavius chapter 1 . 5/10/2015
I think this is a pretty well done story )
The descriptions are well handled, the grammar is good, and the concept for this story is also interesting.
My only complaint with this story is the character of Stasia for most of the story. While she was a good friend to the main character of this story, I didn't like her attitude towards the teachers.
However, she did get her karma for that so it's just a minor complaint.
Good job )
| m. b. whitlock chapter 1 . 5/10/2015
RG Depth #4,845
I really like the first line:
“They rebranded fifties style home economics for the modern girl who didn't picture herself one day shackled to the stove.”
It’s a nice introduction to Stasia. We get that she’s smart and has a sophisticated (probably way too much for her good), ironic attitude.
“She'd been bumped off the academically gifted track for poor performance. But bad grades were to be expected when you're always getting kicked out of the classroom.”
I like this development. Works with what we have learned about her already and takes it further, filling her out as a character. This part also introduces the narrator. I am already wondering how she/he is different/similar to Stasia.
“both, at the time, more relevant and pressing needs of mine than learning to cook or sew.”
Here are first clues for the narrator. She seems, I’m thinking she’s a she ;), like a high achieving kid who’s under a lot of pressure.
Like the paragraph that follows about Stasia’s feelings of persecution. She’s seeming like a more edgy character now. She might be serious bad news for our narrator. “This particular attack enraged her more than getting removed from AG.” What’s AG?
Like this quick sketch of Mrs. Anderson:
“During the first class she yelled out an answer and was told by Mrs. Anderson, our slight teacher with a chic grandmother sort of way about her,”
Not clichéd, unique character.
Good concepts here in this Stasia description, good contrast with Mrs. Anderson and sets up conflict to come. if you ever edit might want to smooth out the language some:
“I saw her eyebrows scrunch in response to this, disarmed momentarily, but she recovered and answered and let a scowl rest on her face as she was probably pondering just what the hell this lady was up to.”
This is great:
“Mrs. Anderson always called on Stasia.”
Conflict sets in, good move!
Good conflict development here too:
“Stasia believed this was all part of some patriarchal mommy-making programming she was instilling in us,”
Again, character-wise for Stasis this makes sense!
New character Ben:
“The next day in class she was sitting next to someone else, and that is when I first sat next to Ben.”
Quick suggestion, maybe give us a bit about him earlier so when he shows up here it rings a bell, has a little more impact…?
Really cool image here:
“reached out to touch my inside wrist, to indicate the Sharpie tattoo she'd given me of our names in a heart.”
Has a lot of resonance, the ‘permanent’ marker that’s not really a tattoo, the mark of friendship that now seems like a burden… The fact that he touches it and the names are two girls in Home Ec…
“He walked in and tossed his head to get his hair out of his eyes so he could look at me and joke, "Tired of me already?””
Very effective character moment here with Ben. Refers back to the ‘floppy hair’ thing mentioned earlier.
“Mrs. Anderson told us to pair up into parenting teams for this egg assignment, where we had to drain the yolk and decorate it and somehow this was supposed to teach us about how hard it is to raise a baby.”
Seems just a little odd to me that they would drain/blow out the yolks from the eggs. I mean, they aren’t as delicate that way and the danger of a big mess, the baby going splat! is diminished… But I’ve never done this in school (never took Home Ec) so Idk…
This is so sad, but works so well with the plot and Stasia’s character:
“She sat with her arms crossed while everyone paired up and due to the uneven number of students she was left to be a single parent. “
Great climax here:
““I’m not gonna be a mother," she spat. "I'm not gonna be a maid.””
This leaves me with questions!:
“Her campaign ended that day in our teacher's embrace.”
I like how you pull together a lot of the girl/girl romance flickers into a possible questionable teacher/student affair… Very intriguing and not expected.
Real great stuff! Like it lots. Honored to be in the WCC with a writer as talented as you. :D
| Imperial General of Grado chapter 1 . 5/10/2015
Something that stood out was the gender gap when you described the teacher picking female students when she can. I guess this is a 50's high school one shot, other than that there's no difference between a modern high school. I would have liked to seen a description of 50's fashion, egg cremes, discos, whatever was popular in that time frame. It was quite a touching story, rebellious Stasia and patient Mrs. Anderson ending with a hug.
| DwightE94 chapter 1 . 5/9/2015
Your writing style is inspirational! Your ability to tell a story is amazing also. Keep up the great work.