I'm not an acknowledged literary critic. Heck, I haven't been published as often as some of the better-known names in the field.
However, I do find it easy to call a spade a spade. That's not to say that my opinions are entirely objective -- in fact some of them cross the line into near-incomprehensible -- but I find it easy to call a spade a spade.
If you have a piece of short fiction that seeks honest criticism from someone who's familiar with writing, then I invite you to send it over to me. Via e-mail, preferably in plain text format so that the viruses don't shut down my poor, forlorn computer. My e-mail address is at the bottom of this article.
I don't expect you to trust me with that statement alone, so I'm willing to offer a bunch of credentials here:
I've been writing for almost 14 years, ever since I sat watching the New Years' fireworks on the eve of my ascension to high school, thinking how nice it would be if I knew how to tell stories. I had my first hackjob published when I was 14, a six-page story in the school literary folio that is so dated now that I never show it to anyone.
I wrote regularly until I graduated from high school, and spent three years of my college life trying to break into an established literary culture with my themes of fantasy, science fiction, and talking mice. I went on hiatus for two or three years afterwards, choosing to concentrate on corporate culture rather than the intricacies of writing. I threw my hat back into the ring last year, once it became obvious that there were too many plots in my head for me to sleep at night.
I specialize in characters and settings, and I reserve a great deal of respect for people who can somehow get both of these aspects right without compromising the story. I've been taught the fundamentals of literary criticism, both for prose and for poetry, and I use them well.
I give honest opinions. I bring both praise and ridicule, both admiration and revilement to every story I read. I make sure to see both sides as much as I can. I don't think that there are ever any bad pieces of fiction... just elements that make them bad pieces of fiction.
I try to give concrete explanations whenever possible. I've seen writers I've critiqued go on to create masterpieces, and I've seen writers I've critiqued give up the field entirely. I don't consciously encourage the latter when it's really their choice to begin with; Getting into writing without being able to take criticism is a lot like going to the beach and expecting not to get sand in the crack of your ass.
I have my own bunch of published works (mostly high school and college works) as well as a good-sized pile of rejection slips (from a lot of places). I've written under pen names. I've tried multiple approaches to multiple genres.
I haven't written a novel, nor have I written any poetry in a long time. I'm stuck using English, because I have a horrible aptitude for other languages.
I don't have any writing awards to my credit, no.
I've critiqued a good number of short stories in the past year, so I'm settling into the groove at the moment. My reviews tend to be consistent with other reviews from other writers, so I think I have a good chance of pegging the issues with anyone's piece.
So if you're looking for some honest criticism, then I'm laying my offerings on the table. Send me your short stories, and I'll tell you what I think. If you believe that I'm just tooting my own horn here, then you can always choose not to hand over anything.
saito_ichikawa (at) yahoo (dot) com.
I make no obligations to answer you within a set period of time, but I will definitely keep your story to myself. That is, unless it's good, in which case I might not be able to stop myself raving about it.