Needed: One Alligator’s skin

Today my guest is Geneva Cobb Iijima. Geneva Cobb Iijima is a recent widow who was married to Peter Iijima for 54 years. She has published well over 100 stories, articles and devotions and four books for children. She’s currently searching for stories of courageous people who rescued the innocent from the Nazi’s clutches during WWII. She lives in Oregon and has four children and eight grandchildren.

Geneva’s title for her post immediately caught my attention, so I had to read it right away. Here’s what she has to say about alligator skin and writing.

            Ever wonder what it feels like to wear an alligator’s skin? Most writers can tell you. We usually put one on before going to our critique group. You see, submitting our precious manuscript to others to discuss can be scary. What if they don’t like it? What if they think we should omit some of our choice phrases or illustrations? What if they don’t like our main character? Despite the hazards, a writer’s critique is a necessary part of writing. Because–surprise, surprise–our thoughts don’t roll out in perfect order and amazing clarity as fast as the printer can print them. We need fresh eyes to read them and other ears to listen to their sound. And when someone attacks our wonderful manuscript and rips it to shreds, we absolutely must have our alligator’s skin.

            When I first started writing seriously, my dream was to be invited to join a critique group. Stan Baldwin and Sally Stuart’s was the best of the best. At least, I thought so, but it was full at a maximum of about twelve. So, I waited. In time someone moved, and I joined. Whoopee! I was in. And though I was a newbie, they were kind.

            Years later, I’m more seasoned, and critiquers aren’t so kind. I’m in an online critique that has had members from So. Africa, Japan, Australia and the East Coast of the U. S. I hail from Oregon. Recently, the member from the East Coast returned her critique of a manuscript of mine with this comment. “I love your ideas, but does everyone in your part of the country talk like you do? I have a friend in Seattle, and she doesn’t.”

            “Ouch!” Where’s that alligator skin? She referred to some of my Geneva-isms, my “creative” word arrangements. Maybe I carried them a bit too far? Huh?

            The first rule of any critique group is to preface all remarks with something positive, as my East Coast friend had done. However, once a person in my group came down hard on another member. She ripped the other woman’s story apart, shred by shred. She found nothing positive to say. Some writers would have been in tears (I cried inwardly), but this woman handled the assault gracefully. She must have worn her alligator suit that night. Later, the leader reprimanded the critiquer, who eventually apologized, but it was awhile before critiquing returned to normalcy.

            Despite the fact we writers do have to develop a bit of an alligator’s skin sometimes, a good critique group is a treasure. We’re usually too close to our work to see it objectively. I’m sure most of my work looks better to me than it does to others. So, I smile (at least, I try to), and make the changes I think are valid. I hope my readers enjoy the finished product.

P.S. This was critiqued by my local critique group.

You can contact Geneva Cobb Iijima thru her website at

Check out Geneva Cobb Iijima’s books on Amazon:

The Way We Do It In Japan

Jesus Loves Us All, Published in eight languages (no link for Amazon, sorry)

The First Christmas in Origami, An Advent book

Object Lessons in Origami, Standard Publishing, (out of print).