Tag Archives: commitment

Breaking up with Ben & Jerry

by Lillian Csernica on January 18, 2017


Tonight I consumed my last pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra.

Tomorrow morning I begin a medically supervised accelerated weight loss program.

When I was ten years old, my parents took me to see a dietician. I was already 5’6″, and already 152 lbs. Not good. Now I’m forty years older and 100 lbs heavier. Time to stop kidding myself about the health problems that are right around the corner if I don’t do something about my weight problem RIGHT NOW.

This is not a New Year’s Resolution. This is me deciding to act like a grown-up and stop indulging myself while blaming the depression, the difficulty of my life, some writing setback, or whatever other chaos afflicts me at that moment.


I have a plan. I have professionals backing me. I have a guidebook and a journal and a food scale and the necessary supplements. I’m going to do this.

There are so many stories waiting to be written.

There are so many birthdays and Christmases and personal triumphs ahead for both Michael and John.

There are so many places in the world I have yet to see, just in Japan alone!

There may be setbacks. That’s OK. I know how to deal with setbacks. You just take a deep breath, focus on the next indicated action, and start moving forward again.

I can do this. I will do this. For me, for the kids, for my writing.



Filed under chocolate, Christmas, Conventions, Depression, doctors, editing, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Food, frustration, Goals, Japan, Lillian Csernica, parenting, perspective, publication, research, Self-image, special education, therapy, Writing

The Top Five Reasons Why You Need an Editor

by Lillian Csernica on May 12, 2015

Last week somebody out there in Twitter Land had a free copy promotion going on.  I followed the link.  The book looked interesting, a collection of short stories that promised suspense and paranormal chills.  So I downloaded it to my Kindle.  One evening, after the work of the day was done and the kids were asleep, I settled down in happy anticipation.

I was disappointed.

Typos.  Punctuation errors.  Grammatical errors.  Awkward sentence structure.  Stilted dialogue.

These were not the errors of just one author.  These mistakes were present in three different stories by three different authors.  None of the stories in that collection was fit to be published.  How do I know?  Who am I to judge?  I’ve worked as a slush reader for a fiction magazine.  I’ve been reviewing fiction for over twenty years.  I’ve published a novel via traditional publishing, aka the hard way.  I’ve also published over thirty short stories.  I have the experience and the credentials to know the difference between the work of a professional writer and somebody who still has a lot to learn.

As long as there are wannabes, dilettantes, and tyros in the world, there will be some form of vanity press.  Unfortunately, the wonders of the Digital Age have made available to people at every level of writing skill the opportunity to “publish” their writing.  I have to say this.  Just because you can churn out something that looks like a short story, or is long enough to be classified as a novel, that does not make you a writer.

I see far too many people swanking around these days referring to themselves as “authors.”  Having a book to sell has become a fad.  There was a time when going to a seance was the thing to do.  Then Houdini started busting the fakes and the con artists.  Remember when everybody had a Pet Rock?  That was just silly.  Billy Ray Cyrus had his one hit wonder days with “Achy Breaky Heart” and all over the country people were line-dancing to that song.  Now anybody and everybody can slap together their own version of Tolkien Lite, put a cover on it, and fling it out into the electronic marketplace.

This makes me angry, and I’ll tell you why.  Far too many people want to be “authors.”  They don’t want to write.  They don’t even understand the difference.  They do not respect the art and craft of writing.  They do not respect the writers who have spent their lives doing their best to improve their work, to polish their style, to honor the unspoken contract with the reader that says, “You pick up my book and I will give you a story worth reading.”

Having said all that, allow me to offer these thoughts on why an editor is an essential part of a writer’s life.

1. You don’t think you need one.

If you really believe you don’t need an editor, then I hope for your sake that you have some variety of OCD that has made you go over your manuscript with a microscope.  Even then, because of your familiarity with the story and the words, your brain may commit what’s called “closure” and prevent you from spotting an error.

2.  Unless you have an English teacher for a beta reader, odds are good your writer friends don’t know much more than you do.

The best writing teacher I’ve ever had knows all the technical terms for all the nuts and bolts of grammar.  Thanks to him, I know the difference between an “adjectival phrase” and a “predicate phrase.”  I know about the inner essence of sentences.  And I still don’t know much.  If I hadn’t kept that teacher’s handouts, most of what he taught me about the inner workings of what people call “microwriting” would have fallen out of my memory.  My point here is that not many people make it their purpose in life to understand exactly how the English language is supposed to work.

If you’re in a writer’s group or a critique group where all the other people are at the same level of skill and accomplishment, how are you and the rest of the group going to grow as writers?  If you don’t know what you don’t know and nobody there is a qualified authority, you may be able to do each other some good with regard to plot, character, setting, etc., but you aren’t going to bring your manuscript up to the best, most marketable standards.  There are people who know how to do that.  Those people are called editors.

3.  “Fresh eyes” are essential for spotting any mistakes.

Time and effort have proven that I write five drafts before I have what I consider a complete story.  That’s true whether it’s a short story or a novel.  By the time I’ve finished the fifth draft, I’ve caught most of the obvious errors and I’ve cut as much as I know the story does not need.  By this point the story is so familiar to me that I’m sick of looking at it.  Now is the time to hand the manuscript to somebody who has never read it.  If you want to be really drastic, give the story to somebody who does not like that particular type of story.  Me, I don’t read Westerns.  They do nothing for me.  Since I am not likely to be caught up in the story, I will be paying greater attention to the word choices, the grammar, the punctuation, and any typos that pop up.  If one of my writer friends wanted me to beta read a Western manuscript, it would be an uphill battle to draw me into the story and make me feel sympathy for the main characters.  If the writer succeeds in doing so, that really counts for something.

4.  I don’t care how much experience you have, there will be a misspelling or typo lurking in there somewhere.

Believe me when I tell you there are few things more painful that seeing your work in print and THEN spotting the typo, the renegade comma, or the missing word that totally screws up the meaning of that sentence.

5.  There is always room for improvement.

I don’t ask my beta readers for help until I’ve take the manuscript as far as I can possibly go.  Before I give it to them, I do my best to make sure the manuscript is so clean it sparkles.  There’s no point in getting a second opinion on mistakes you know you’ve made.  If you’re hiring an editor, there’s no point in spending money just to be told what you already know.  Make sure your writing is as good as you can possibly make it, then get that second opinion.  As hard as you’ve worked, there will still be other word choices, other possible plot twists, other ways to write a given character’s dialogue.

These are strong statements, I know.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  Do you think I’m full of hot air?  Do you believe there’s no difference between an author and a writer?  Tell me how you you feel about all this.


Filed under editing, Fiction, Goals, publication, Writing

World Autism Day

by Lillian Csernica on April 2, 2014



Hello.  My name is Lillian, and I am the mother of an autistic child.

Went to see my therapist this morning.  Told her how tired I was of living this life.  This week is Spring Break, and so far every single day has been totally FUBAR.  (For those of you who don’t know what the acronym means, please take a moment to Google it.  Thank you.  I’ll wait.)

Monday — No aide for John.  Car trouble.

Tuesday — No aide for John.  Different aide.  Health issues.

Wednesday (today) — No nurse for Michael!  That was a nasty surprise that took four phone calls to sort out.  My husband had to watch Michael (Chris normally sleeps late due to his work shift) while I kept my therapy appointment.  My mother was driving, so I took John with me.  No aide for John today.  When I got home, I had three hours of Just Me & The Boys.  I’m not used to that.  Then the afternoon nurse showed up.

Thursday — The nurses are all sorted out.  Will John have an aide?  That remains to be seen.  Same for Friday.

Is it any wonder I can’t stand living in a constant state of crisis, of my support staff flaking out on me, of John being disappointed and his routine disrupted, of Michael not getting his medication on time and having a seizure?  I haven’t been sleeping more than about four hours a night lately because I ran out of one of my insomnia meds and getting the refill was the usual complicated mess.  There’s nothing like sleep deprivation to make even the smaller glitches seem like a few more anti-personnel mines thrown into my path as I struggle through the day.

Autism.  It’s taught me a whole new vocabulary, words like “neurotypical,” “noncompliant,” and “perseveration.”  I’ve learned about the Praise-Prompt-Withdraw method, the Prop-Rule-Role method, and the importance of preventing the anxiety spiral from gaining momentum.  You have to catch that when it starts or you’re in for what a boss I once worked for called, “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  Yes, it’s a Biblical reference, and well it might be.  The Seven Plagues of Egypt have nothing on John when he’s well and truly in the grip of a full bore meltdown.

Autism has also taught me tolerance.  The ability to see people as individuals, each possessed of their own unique strengths and weaknesses.  The importance of not making assumptions, of not being judgmental, and of lending a helping hand at any and every opportunity.  I am no saint.  I have a bad temper made worse by depression and lack of sleep.  I get very frustrated when all the staffing crises and school problems and medical issues drag me away from my writing.  I can’t wait to run away to the next convention where I can leave this life for a few days and wallow in the companionship of my fellow writers, readers, and dreamers.

Part of me feels really guilty over not feeling guilty about that.

Autism is a spectrum disorder.  You know what?  BEING HUMAN IS A SPECTRUM DISORDER!

I don’t have any profound wisdom about this.  I have no eloquent, compassionate statement to make.  My one son is crippled for life physically, and my other son may well be suffering learning disabilities more serious than I had previously realized.  Life is tough for us.  The bottom line remains the same.  I love my sons with all my heart.  I will live this life seeing to it they both enjoy the greatest quality of life they can possibly achieve.


Filed under autism, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, marriage, Self-image, Special needs, Writing