Write It Sideways

Excerpt Critique: “The Family Channel,” Memoir

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Take a moment to read the excerpt and leave some thoughtful feedback in the comment section below.

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The Family Channel


Ready on the set.  Roll Sound. (Speed.) Roll Camera. (Rolling.) Road Scholars. Scene 21. Take 1. Action!

“Do you have any alcohol, tobacco or weapons in your car?”

We had driven eighteen hundred miles up the east coast to Canada with three kids.  Of course, we had alcohol in our car. A cigarette might have helped, too, but I didn’t smoke.  Weapons?  Last week, Wyatt fashioned a slingshot out of two pencils and his sisters’ ponytail holders. Did that count?  Just yesterday, Emma beat Anabel into submission with her Teddy. Should we declare her stuffed animal as a lethal weapon?

With his best poker face, Greg responded to the Canadian border guard, “We have some blueberry beer from Maine and a bottle of gin. No tobacco or weapons.”

Glancing into the bulging rear of our Ford Excursion we affectionately called, the family truckster, she said, “Pull over just ahead.

Two guards, armed to the teeth, approached our vehicle with clipboards in hand and said, “Please vacate your automobile leaving everything inside.”  A family of five Americans entering Canada on an October morning seemed to be subversive stuff.

Smiling as the chilly northern wind hit my face, I turned on the Southern charm. “How are y’all?” No response.  “We’re so excited to be in Canada!  We’re on a family sabbatical…traveling America to teach our kids first hand about history and geography and different people…” I rattled on about our one-year radical lifestyle change while one guard (a man wearing ladies’ glasses) wrote down our make, model, tag and passport information and the other began searching our ten-year-old car.

Potential Feedback Prompts

When you respond, you might consider:

  • your immediate reactions
  • likes and dislikes
  • anything that seems unclear
  • language issues
  • point of view
  • voice
  • inconsistencies
  • general encouragement