Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Telling on Myself

The other day I was sitting in Triss' chair for a moment, resting my laptop on my lap and waiting for a document to print on the printer above her computer. As I waited, I glanced idly at the Word document she had pulled up. She likes writing stories, and writes a lot. This is what I read:

Miserably doubting, they went down and saw that the photographs were where they had put them, in between the pages of the "History of Arden."

"I don't see what we can do. Do you?" said Edred forlornly. It was a miserable ending to the happenings that had succeeded each other in such a lively procession ever since they had been at Arden. It seemed as though a door had been shut in their faces, and "Not any more," written in very plain letters across the chapter of their adventures.

"I wish we could find the witch again," said Elfrida, "but she said she couldn't come into these times more than once."

"I wonder why," said Edred, kicking his boots miserably against the leg of the table on which he sat. "That Dicky chap must have been here pretty often, to have an address at New Cross. I say, suppose we wrote to him. It would be something to do."

I put on my editor's cap as I read, and, thinking the passage could be improved, said, "Triss, did you realize you used a form of the word 'miserable' three times right here?"

"Mommy!" she said, "That's House of Arden by E. Nesbit!"

Well. I felt sheepish. I remembered that awhile back Triss had transferred the online text of the book to Word so she could read it offline. I had been critiquing the writing of a renowned children's author instead of my 14-year-old daughter's.

You'd think I would have realized it was House of Arden because of the mention of Arden. But I had assumed Triss had thrown that in because she admired E. Nesbit. Obviously, I've never read it.

This is something for me to ponder as I begin critiquing the children's science fair project reports. Perhaps I set the bar too high sometimes. Or perhaps I don't always understand the effect the author is going for.

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