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Critiques please

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by sportsgopher, Jun 19, 2007.

  1. sportsgopher

    sportsgopher Member

    Thanks in advance for taking a look at this.

    Angie Hill's memories before second grade are like snapshots, frames of a life mostly not worth remembering.

    Throwing a fit when she couldn't watch Oprah.

    Occasionally being fed black-eyed peas instead of peanut butter and jelly.

    Packing her meager belongings and moving to another family's house.

    Even enduring a slap or two.

    That's what you recall bouncing from foster home to foster home, lost in a system that admits to a spiraling placement rate as a child grows older.

    The focus, though, sharpens when she remembers what she wished for.

    "I just wanted what every kid wants, someone to call mom, and to not worry about moving again," Hill said.

    So it was understandable when tears welled in Hill's eyes on Friday as she finished a string of bogeys that left her in danger of missing the cut at the Michelob Ultra Duramed Futures Players Championship.

    Maybe she was worried about having to move on, away from where she wanted to be, prematurely. Maybe it was the thought of letting her mom down, or her boyfriend, or her sponsor, or her high school coach, who is carrying her bag for her this week. Maybe it was just the sickening thought of not playing on the weekend.

    Whatever it was, there she stood on No. 13 at Hickory Point, threatening to miss the cut after not putting any red numbers on the board over a trio of birdieable holes - instead, she went the other way on all three.

    Tears, which rarely see the open air with Hill, were trying to spill down the cheeks of a golfer most proud of her ability to put aside trouble and heartache as she focuses on the issue at hand.

    "I was losing it. The pressure of the moment, you know?" she said. "It's a major, and I want to do so well. It's probably the biggest tournament I've been in this year, and I'm thinking I'm not going to make the cut. I've got to focus and get at least one birdie up or I'm done. I was a little scared."

    With what she's accomplished so far in life, one birdie in five holes should have been nothing to be frightened of.

    Humble beginnings

    Jan Hill and her then husband were looking for an infant to adopt, wanting the full experience of raising a child they couldn't have themselves.

    But that plan changed the minute Jan, who had only seen pictures, talked with little Angie.

    "They want you to take them to dinner to see how you match. Well, we went to dinner, then she kept asking to see the house, and I couldn't turn her down," Jan said. "We went in and I showed her around, and she did not want to leave. I called and told (Ohio social services) that I had brought her to the house - which was a no-no - but I also told them I wanted her to be my daughter."

    For Angie, the trip began as just another one of a few "auditions" she had to perform as an older child trying to be adopted. But this one wasn't anything like the others.

    "They take you to dinner and maybe show you their house. 'This would be your room. This would be your doll.' It's kind of a big tease," Hill said.

    "At mom's, it was, 'This is your room. This is your cat. This is your blanket.' It was a totally different feel. It was almost immediately home."

    And, almost immediately she moved in, even before the final paperwork was signed, lugging all of her belongings in two grocery bags. It was all of a few shirts, a couple of pairs of pants, a jacket, a Smurfs puzzle and a teddy bear.

    Lost holidays

    The party planned by family was supposed to be a baby shower, but with Angie a bit past pacifiers and teething rings, it turned into a welcome-to-the-family reunion, with Jan's large extended family all in attendance.

    For Angie, it was like seven Christmases rolled into one.

    "There was this giant table that seemed 15 feet long," she said. "And it was stacked with presents. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen.

    "And there were people everywhere giving me hugs and saying, 'I'm your uncle, I'm your aunt. Welcome to the family.' I couldn't stop smiling."

    Then she worried. For at least a year, Angie fought the fear of it all coming to an end, that it was just another tease. And when Jan divorced, the fear just multiplied.

    "It was a little scary. I didn't know what to expect," Angie said. "But my mom said, 'Don't worry, it will work out for the best.' And she wasn't lying. It's been great since."

    Perfect match

    Mom and daughter were ringers for each other as Angie grew up, sharing the same color hair, the same soft-spoken nature and similarly cherubic faces.

    "People would always say how much we looked alike and how alike we acted," Jan said. "It was just easier to agree than point out she was adopted."

    They also share the same laid-back attitude about most things, the ability to brush off the worries of the day as they do the best they can in a given situation.

    That demeanor may be why Angie didn't need much in the way of counseling, or - eventually - constant reassurance that her new home would still be there when she woke up the next day.

    "They said she'd act out, that she would be withdrawn. But we didn't have any of that," Jan said. "She adapted very well and very quickly.

    "She was tiny when we got her home, but she started growing, and she did well in school. She flourished. She's just been a great kid to have. She does nothing halfway. She puts every effort into everything she's done. Some might say she was fortunate to get adopted at seven, but it wasn't her that was fortunate, it was all me."

    Change of direction

    Sports became a favorite instantly for Angie, supplanting the New Kids on the Block blanket she claimed she'd "love forever" when she first moved in with Jan.

    Initially, it was kickball with cousins, then organized sports once Jan realized some of Angie's athleticism.

    Hill played softball and basketball growing up, excelling in both, even professing her desire for a WNBA career.

    But after a charging drill in basketball practice ended with multiple fractures for the 5-foot-9 sophomore's wrist - forcing a year layoff - Hill was talked into joining the Canton (Ohio) McKinley High School golf team.

    It was love at first swing.

    But like most, Hill

    wasn't a prodigy at the game. Still, low 50s are pretty good for a beginner.

    "I practiced, and hit balls, and practiced," she said. "I was shooting in the 30s by the next year."

    Big decision

    After high school, Hill enrolled at Tiffin University, a Division II school in Ohio. She played golf there for two years, sometimes as the school's only player. After her second season, Hill wanted to play golf full time, not just when the sometimes brutal Ohio weather allowed.

    "I knew this is what I wanted to be doing then," she said. "I knew that I wanted to somehow make a living at golf. I wasn't going to do that in Ohio."

    So she set about finding a school in the South, but that was easier said than done.

    "I called coaches and called coaches. Some wouldn't even talk to me," Hill said.

    Finally she rang College of Charleston coach Jamie Futrell, who said he'd give her a chance. It seems he leaves a couple of spots for walk-ons because that's how he got his start.

    There was a litmus test. Hill would have to try out, but if she could manage 85, she could play for the Cougars. When Hill, already enrolled at the school, was 2 under through nine, Futrell stopped the makeshift audition.

    "He told her, 'Stop embarrassing me, you're on the team,' " Jan said.

    A degree in business, three collegiate victories and a Southern Conference Player of the Year award later, and Hill was ready to turn pro.

    Big chance

    Hill needed a break and she got it one day while working as a caddie at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina last winter.

    A governor's outing had politicians and uppity-ups from all over the country at the course, and Hill, desperate for money to go to LPGA qualifying school, was double-bagging it for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and New York attorney Andrew Entwistle.

    Always a gregarious sort, Hill chatted up the clients as the round progressed. When the group hit a par 3 late in the front nine, a bet broke out for closest to the pin, and Entwistle said he wanted his caddie to hit his shot. Without a warm-up swing, using Entwistle's club and already tired from lugging two bags in 110-degree heat, Hill stuck a shot to 3 feet.

    "I just turned around smiling and said, 'Yeah, I play a little bit,' " she said. "We started talking, and I told him I really wanted to go to Q-school but couldn't afford it. He asked me how much I'd need, and I said '$5,000 plus expenses.' He told me he'd send the check out the next day, and I just laughed and gave him my address."

    Entwistle made good on the promise, sending Hill a check for $10,000, enough to get to California and Florida for the stages of Q-school. Hill was co-medalist of the first stage - with the help of a final-round 66 - but then missed her LPGA card by two shots in California.

    She's since signed a contract for a sponsorship with Entwistle that will keep her dream of LPGA status going for three years.

    Never a doubt

    Hill made the birdie she needed at Friday's Futures tournament to hit the cut line on the number. She shot 74 on Saturday to sit in a tie for 62nd entering today's final round.

    It's not exactly the position she envisioned herself in to begin the tournament, but it's another learning experience as she hones her golfing skills. She'll have all the more knowledge for the next opportunity.

    For her, given the background, a chance seems to be all she needs.

    As she looks back, Hill believes the tinier version of herself, even at five or six years old, always held on to the hope that life would get better. That one day, something good was going to happen, and all she had to do was make it to that point.

    When it finally did arrive, she took to it like she has everything since Jan opened the door to her house that first time 17 years ago - with arms wide open.

    Now, a life nearly forgotten has blossomed into a life that will forever be remembered - and someday passed on to the sons and daughters that Angie says she can't wait to have.

    "Like 30 of them. I'm going to have them, adopt them, take them in," she said, grinning like a seven-year-old at a welcome-to-the-family party. "Really, I'd love to have four or five or six. Have my own little Brady Bunch. Run a golf school or teach and raise kids."

    But that will wait for a while. She still has a little to prove to herself on the golf course while she adds to a burgeoning bank of terrific memories.
  2. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    SG -

    Thanks for posting with us.

    I think this is a very sound profile in most ways, but I'd offer the following notes. As always, please take them in the collegial spirit in which I offer them:

    - I think you're reaching a little bit in your lede for a "triumph-over-adversity" angle. While that's certainly at least partially true in this young woman's case, it doesn't really resonate at the top in the way you'd want it to. I suspect this is because her foster-child past doesn't dovetail with her standing on the tee at 13 crying. She's not crying because she was adopted - she's crying because she's at risk of fucking up years of hard work. And while those two things are perhaps somehow linked, they aren't necessarily linked by cause.

    - Which leads me to this: This isn't simply a story about perseverence or talent or up-by-the-bootstraps sports success. This is a story about Providence. On at least three crucial occasions, three important people have appeared in this young woman's life to help her. Her mom. Her college golf coach. Her sponsor. That, to me, is the story.

    - I'd suggest, then, using the terrific scene when she wins the bet for her sponsor as your lede. Then put her on the tee at 13. Then cycle back in time to her adoption. At which point, I think, the adversity of her childhood would have some emotional resonance. After which you detail her story up to the present moment - ending the piece with her hitting away on 13 and eventually making the cut. Which will remind us of her winning the bet. "She has, after all, made important shots before," etc., etc. Find your ends in your beginnings.

    - If she just picked up a golf club cold and immediately became a college-caliber player, I think we need some more detail on her uncanny knack for the game.

    - Also, having read the entire piece, I have no idea what she looks or sounds like. We need one or two salient details about her appearance at minimum in a piece this long.

    - As a matter of personal taste, alliteration, i.e. "burgeoning bank," almost always undermines whatever thought you're trying to convey.

    Hope this helps. Again, thanks so much for letting us see this.
  3. sportsgopher

    sportsgopher Member


    Thanks for taking a look, and taking the time to add your thoughts. As usual with these critiques, I think you're about as dead on as anyone can be.

    I thought about the providence angle but wasn't sure i could pull it off in the time I was allowed to write this feech (day and a half with other duties covering the event as well).
    I write mostly by feel, not really organizing anything until I actually start typing (probably a very bad way to go about it) and even then I do it all in my head. I thought it would be pushing it to get it done by deadline if I went that direction but I should have.

    Uppity-ups -- I've been told that my writing is very conversational and I have a tendency to be a bit colloquial in phrases. Sometimes I just make up a word unintentionally. Not sure if that's what happened there or not, but what I just skim over as I read the story does sound kind of dumb when it's pointed out.

    I didn't like the timeline being mostly linear, but that's the way it came out. Again, the way that I go about writing is not that conducive to the early mapping out of how I'm going to tell a tale. Hopefully, I'll take this realization and change how I do things a little bit.

    Again, I really appreciate the time. This is the greatest feature of the site - especially when guys like you and jones break down a story. I wish more people used it.

  4. Dessens71

    Dessens71 Member

    I'm no editor, so I don't really have a well-thought-out critique, but I just wanted to offer a compliment. This is an awesome paragraph.

    >>> And, almost immediately she moved in, even before the final paperwork was signed, lugging all of her belongings in two grocery bags. It was all of a few shirts, a couple of pairs of pants, a jacket, a Smurfs puzzle and a teddy bear.

    It really hit me emotionally. I don't know why. Maybe I'm too materialistic. But including the detail about this little girl with all her things in two shopping bags was really tear-jerking, in a good way.
  5. sportsgopher

    sportsgopher Member

    Thanks very much for the compliment Dessens.

    When she told me about what she left her foster home with, I was angry and sad. Her mom said she was furious when she picked her up that day. The families receive stipends to take the kids in and so much is supposed to go to food, to clothing and to toys. Apparently none went to clothing, or toys.

    After doing that story, I want to adopt every kid that needs to be.

    Thanks again for the kind words.

  6. Chad Conant

    Chad Conant Member

    For those of us with young kids, the Smurfs puzzle and teddy bear is perfect description. My son has a Pooh puzzle and a Backyardigans doll. I thought of nhim carrying his Pablo doll when I read that line.

    I might have lead with the moment from the golf course, then gone into why she reacted like that, with her life story. Pretty much anything in this is compelling.

    You have a shitload of punch in the chest stuff in here. This the type of story people will read more than once.
  7. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    As usual, jgmacg has done a bang-up job. I just wanted to add to the chorus of appreciation for this graf, gopher. It's perfection. Right details are left in, clutter is thinned out, sweet and tender rhythm to it, simple and clean but it resonates. I especially like the little "all of" tab -- it tells us something without beating us over the head with it.

    Really good stuff, and it's stuff you can't fluke, so you should be proud of it: a lesson in how to write a descriptive paragraph that fights at its natural weight.
  8. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Sirs, Madames,

    I'll throw this to the floor.

    I like much of what is here, agree with much of what has been said.

    I don't like the first line, or at least:

    frames of a life mostly not worth remembering.

    That feels a little clunky. It isn't really like snapshots at all.

    I love the detail that comes after it, but I think something up high that gets at selective memory and hardship ...

    that she recalls the little hurts ...


    she's tried to forget the bigger ones

    ... might have a little more poetry to it. But it's really good work.

    YHS, etc
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