So My Dad Is Going To Be At My Critique, Apparently.

posted in: Day In The Life, Family 27
Father with child. Photo: Wikipedia.
Father with child. Photo: Wikipedia.


I told you last week that my first art school critique is tomorrow. Thanks to all who wished me luck! I took it then and I’ll take it now, especially because the crit happens is bright and early tomorrow morning and a few days ago, I got some weird news about it.

There was a panelist added to the group of people who will be critiquing me. She’s a multidisciplinary artist who has done work at/with the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) before, though I’m not sure what. I didn’t dig too deeply but I know she has some connection to the Writing Department and was part of an event in the spring.

She emailed me to ask me if I was related to John Fons, if that might be my dad. Apparently, she knows my dad.

This email stopped me cold. Not many people ask me about my dad — and never by name. His world and my world exist in galaxies far, far apart from the other. Finally, after years of trying to close the space between us, I have come to understand that it’s better like it is. To get an email from a (female) stranger asking me about my father made my stomach lurch. I thought, “Oh, great. One of Dad’s ex-girlfriends is going to be reading and critiquing my writing. That’s super. That’s just great.”

The email so shocked me that I spent a day trying to figure out how to answer it. I finally sent my reply (I wrote: “It’s possible. Looking forward to meeting you!”) and then I thought about it some more. By the time I stopped brooding and mentioned this to someone, it was really too late to ask to be moved to another panel or to not have this person on the panel. Because the more I think about it, the more I’m not so sure about this. Am I being too sensitive?

Because what was their relationship? How long ago did it occur? I’d like to think they were just colleagues, but then why didn’t she say so? She didn’t say, “Hey, I knew your dad from [this]!” It was so vague, like, “I knew your dad…” and I pictured her like, staring into space and getting…wistful.

Can I barf during a crit? I know some of you brilliant PaperGirl readers said you were art school graduates. Any pointers on barfing during the actual critique session? Should I bring my own fancy barf bag? Perhaps something I’ve collaged?

We know the world is small. I think we forget — I certainly forget — that the world is smaller than a matchbox. Or a match. After burning.

27 Responses

  1. Wendy
    | Reply

    Dear Mary,
    I am sending out positive vibes into the universe for you. I agree, this would feel weird, but no matter the critique, try to focus on the things that are constructive. You may be surprised by what you gain from this critique. I could tell you don’t focus on this mystery lady…but of course it’s inevitable to some degree because you are human. But if you can, hold onto your writing, your wonderful writing tomorrow. Focus on that.

  2. Liz
    | Reply

    Oh, dear. What a stress-bummer on a project like this. But I am sure you will succeed with your talent & good humor, even if you have that extra pit in your stomach. I’ll bet you already have techniques to use, like breathing deep – very regularly, holding a small talisman to squeeze, or maybe not arriving too early to avoid talking with her before hand (or the reverse if you need to know how she knows that other Fons. It could also be that it is “nothing” as in she went to 1st grade with your dad, or he was her teacher on a panel sometime. I obviously don’t know the venue or layout but enjoy what you know you know about the topic & what your good at. These other people have no effect or affect relative to your value as a person. But then you know that, already.

  3. Marj
    | Reply

    Hi Mary,
    I was once told that there are two sides to an insult – the issuer and the one who accepts it. Both must be present. I imagine critiques are the same. You must assess each person issuing a critique of your work to determine if you think their analysis is worthy of acceptance. It doesn’t matter if she knew your father. If she did and that impacts her critique, it wouldn’t be worthy of your acceptance. Always be careful of whose opinion you take. Remember – you know your work better than anyone.
    Plus, let’s face it, you’re perfect. : ) You go, Paper Girl!

    • Linda
      | Reply

      Very good advice. I think those thoughts could be applied to numerous life issues

  4. Deb Kineston
    | Reply

    Why are you so shook up? I watch you every Saturday on PBS. Do you know how hard it is to get on PBS? I see you with confidence standing before a studio camera knowing millions are probably watching you. Do you realize so many women can not stand up in college to read a paragraph due fear and the lack of confidence? Just keep this in mind…Mr. Fons is coming to you…your not the one coming to him. Stand up and with confidence talk through him, not to him. Look at him as if he is just an empty camera with no film, no digital media, just an empty box. You are strong, OMG you have fans!! You are Mary with lots of fans!! He is not in your rodeo, he’s not one of your clowns. he is … just … Mr Fons.

    • Nancy Neely
      | Reply

      Great response! Take it to heart Mary!

  5. Ann Otlewski
    | Reply

    Wow. That is awkward – but good luck! You’ll shine!

  6. Susan
    | Reply

    “Life “puts things in our path that we need and may understand why at the time. You are the wonderful, talented,and kind person I know and love because of times like these. Remember this and be brave!!! Know you are not alone in that room.

  7. Susan
    | Reply

    Fire it up, go get ’em and drop it before you get burned. Hugs. Damn it. But hugs.

  8. Julie
    | Reply

    MARY, sorry that this bomb fell right now. She should have kept that to herself, at least until after the crit. Something is not right here . He has or she has a lot of nerve assuming that this is something that you would be welcome. Power on Paper Girl!

  9. Carol
    | Reply

    It will be fine. Keep your head up and carry on. I could go on with the clichés but you get the picture.
    Take care. I honestly believe you’ll be great!.
    Good luck

  10. Debby
    | Reply

    Maybe just bring a quilted barf bag. It’s “artsy”!

  11. Lori Escher (Iowa City)
    | Reply

    You’ll do great. Stay strong and confident and try not to barf!

  12. Shirley
    | Reply

    Mary do not let her intimidate you in any way.
    I have heard you speak have read many of the things you have written and you will do great.
    She will be impressed for sure.
    Best wishes good luck and a big hug.

  13. Mary
    | Reply

    You are a wonderful writer! You’ll do great regardless!

  14. Kelly Ashton
    | Reply

    Are you too sensitive? No. There’s history here, and the sleeping bear has been nudged.

    Can you barf during a crit? Well, you could. And, I believe you won’t.
    You will walk in, head held high, knowing that you are a strong, talented, kind, compassionate, intelligent (and so much more) woman who became exactly that way through all of the experiences (positive and less than positive – some WAY less then positive) that have brought you to this point.
    Your work will be praised (as it should be) and constructively critiqued (as it should be), all in the name of helping you continue to grow and morph into an even better writer than you are already! You got this, Mary!!! May you walk into that room, have your crit, and walk out having truly enjoyed the process. That is my wish for you. Sending love your way!

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Kelly and everyone… I posted this last night and wake up to you guys. Everyone should have a blog so they can have you all. I can’t even. Thank you.

  15. nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I feel your pain. Just be the bigger person and hold your head up and put a smile on your face. You have done nothing wrong. You can not change someone’s past. You only have control of our own future. Say your prayers and be strong–you got this!

  16. Britt
    | Reply

    She may have been trying to figure out if she needed to take herself off the crit panel due to a connection with Mr. Fons.

    But whatever the circumstance, you got this! Good luck!

  17. Beverly Letsche
    | Reply

    That is stressful! BUT, you have endured far worse. You will triumph! Blessings and hugs.

  18. Vivian
    | Reply

    Whoa! Sending strength vibes your way. I know your mom and Rebecca and everyone else is in that room with you too! Think of all those angels on your shoulder and try not to think about the other part. We know you’ll nail that critique!

  19. Anna Marie Hand
    | Reply

    Just because she knows your father does not mean that she is an ex-girlfriend. She may have worked with him at one time, known him through someone else, lived next door to him, etc. There are a million (maybe not that many) reasons she could know your dad.
    You have probably gone through your crit and I know it was one of the the best things for you right now. Kelly’s comment was so true! You are one strong and talented lady.
    Best of luck next semester.
    BTW Have a wonderful holiday season.

  20. Cheryll
    | Reply

    Wow! I can understand why you area bit rattled but I think you will be just fine. You have amazing talent or you wouldn’t be there to begin with…right? No matter what her relationship was with him You are You, and remember your are this person in spite of his history with you. Head up tootsie, you will be fine!!!

  21. Wynn Martin
    | Reply

    Really? This is making you lose sleep? I always think of you as a woman who is well-centered in your own power. Able to make your own choices. able to stand on your own. All I can say is to hold onto your center; know your own truth and don’t waste energy looking for external validation.

  22. Molli Swinford
    | Reply

    Dear Mary,
    I don’t believe you are being over sensitive. When you have a strained relationship especially with someone like your Father probably just hearing his name puts a knot in your throat. However, I would definitely try not to puke lol and be the strong person I have seen you to be. I have been quilting for a year and a half and I bought Seasons 1 and 2 of Quilty. You have helped me a look much and helped me even before I took Beginners classes at my friends Quilt shop. I had never even threaded a sewing machine! You gave me confidence to start a whole new adventure and I know you will master this for yourself!
    Thanks and good wishes,
    Molli Swinford

  23. […] posted Tuesday that a woman who knew my father from way back when — never a good thing, trust me on this — would be on my first grad critique panel.  I was […]

  24. […] the School of the Art Institute (SAIC), “Critique Week” is, I’m realizing, only the half of it. There are still papers due, presentations to make, […]

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