Whirled Peas: Benefits of constructive criticism about as clear as mud on a foggy day at night

By Dennis Carlson

The News Bunker, where Dennis Carlson's Whirled Peas columns are edited by a team of no-nonsense Eurasian monks after the stroke of midnight.

The News Bunker, where Dennis Carlson’s Whirled Peas columns are edited by a team of no-nonsense Eurasian monks after the stroke of midnight.

I like to run my stories by the Lovely and Talented Mrs. C before submitting them. I can always count on her for honest criticism, although sometimes I need interpretation.
“What do you think?” I ask, “is it funny?”
“Unnh,” she’ll reply, meaning “Wow, this is really good stuff!”
Frequently I’ll get “aaahh,” meaning, “You ended a sentence with a dangling participle.”
She sometimes adds emphasis to her commentary by rolling her eyes to the ceiling. Interpreted, this means, “You really should reexamine the vehicle you’re using to project character development here.”
I tell you I don’t know what I would do without concise and thorough feedback.
We have great repartee, the Mrs. and I. Our lively banter often includes comments like “You wouldn’t know a good story if it bit you on the hiney!”
Sometimes we are so honest with each other that one of us will sleep on the sofa just to give the other time to chew on the beauty of our give and take.
I have even been known to sacrifice having my dinner prepared by her, just to give her opportunity to contemplate the wisdom of my argument!
Sometimes we even let the neighbors in on the conversation from the opposite end of the house.
After a day or two fermenting in this brine, I know Whirled Peas is ready to toss into the Lion’s Den at the Richmond News Bunker. Later I’ll even call the editor to ask,  “What did you think? Was it funny?”
Imagine a puppy dropping a ball at its master’s feet.
“Unnh, aah,” he’ll reply, as if awakened from a deep slumber. I also know he eye-rolls me. I have the photos.
Chastised, I try, without success, to yank my column back from his journalistic maw. All I can do is wave goodbye as it descends into that black void.
From the abyss, a voice booms. “What is it about 400 words you don’t understand? I will teach you!”
Fearing the loss of my very soul, I tear myself away. I spend the next few weeks living behind closed doors and battened hatches. LT – the lovely and talented Mrs. C – and Dar – that’s our pet name for Darwin, the fetching cat – fear for my sanity.
But then a few days later a shrunk-dry, eviscerated column looks back at me from the Richmond News.
Elated, I spend the next few days telling my story the way I really meant it. And I drop more tennis balls on the floor by my editor’s desk.

Dennis Carlson lives in Holt, works for the railroad and is a volunteer fireman. You can write him at

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