Peer Review by MintyNerdyPoodle (Romania)

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Of Entrances and Exits

By: sincereskies


    The wrong door slowly opened: there were two lefts, a flight of stairs and a right before one reached the door I was supposed to be walking through. Angry, fat, mean tears rolled down my face, reflecting a spoiled and unforgiving child. The tears reflected the door, creaking open to reveal a short lady with kind eyes. I immediately decided that I hated those eyes that crinkled as she smiled down at me, those eyes that sparkled and swirled with dashes of blue and grey, those eyes that were full of the wish to bestow on me knowledge, despite my awful appearance. But somehow, despite myself, I got lost in those eyes and forgot about being angry. Swiping a fist across my face, I stepped through the doorway.
    Her name was Claire Neiweem, and she would be my piano teacher every Tuesday at 4, for the next seven years. According to my mother, my sister and I were mature enough to learn more advanced pieces now, and that was why we were taking lessons from Mrs. Neiweem, but I knew that either our old teacher, Mark, just didn’t have room for us in his schedule, or that he simply didn’t care. It was probably the latter.
    So the lessons commenced. Some days, Mrs. Neiweem sent me out the door with a warning: “You had better improve by the next time I see you!” Those were the days when I hadn’t bothered to practice the week before the lesson, resulting in a lecture of how “when I was your age, lessons were a privilege. You would practice hard all week, then dress up and perform for your teacher,” and, boy, did they happen often. Every time, I would get so mad at her for hurting my feelings, and swore never to walk through her doors ever again. I would complain to my parents, trying to tell them how bad a person she was, but they would just shake their heads, and tell me that I wasn’t allowed to quit until the end of the semester, because they had already paid for lessons. So they made me practice. I don’t know if you’ve ever seriously played classical piano, but it required me to practice at least an hour every day. Most of the time, the day would end up with my yelling at my parents and banging on the piano, because of my temper and limited patience with the piece I was learning.
    There was one specific piece that I absolutely despised: Sonata in G major, opus 49 number 2, by Ludwig van Beethoven. The doorbell rang one day, for we had invited family friends over, but of course I wasn’t allowed to greet them, or even play with them for that matter, until I had practiced the piano. The cheerful welcomes and small talk that floated down from upstairs was cut off by a bang. My dad rushed downstairs to see if I were hurt, only to find a deep-set scowl, and a fist trying to beat the hell out of the piano keys. He smiled tightly, trying to reign in his anger.
    “Iris. You are to sit there, and play the piano correctly until an hour is up, then you can spend the rest of the day in your room.”
    A burst of laughter from some bad joke echoed from upstairs. My fury, which was already spilling out like water from a cracked pipe, ruptured.
    “NO! I will NOT!” My dad took a step forward.
    “Iris, calm down.” My face flushed a violent shade of maroon, and staring at my dad dead in the eye I raised my fist, and crashed it into the black keys with a satisfying THONK. 
    “You’re the worst parent ever! You make me do every little thing while everyone else gets to have fun! I hate you!” My dad picked me up and half carried, half dragged me to my room, but I think my thrashing self got a few good kicks and punches in there.
    “You’re grounded for three weeks, and at the end of the semester you are going to stop playing the piano,” he growled, closing the door. This should have made me happy, but for some reason I was horrified. Stop playing piano? Impossible. I found myself howling, begging, pleading with my dad to rethink his decision.
    You see, somewhere among constant the fighting and screaming, I realized that I could imagine a world without piano.
    Months passed, with more threats, but more progress, and then finally it was time to compete. The stage doors were opened for me, and after I slight pause, I had to be gently pushed through them. Trying inconspicuously to wipe my sweaty hands on my dress, I walked slowly across the stage toward the Steinway grand. I could see the judges eyeing me, critiquing me already before I even started to play.
    Clenching and unclenching my shaking hands, I raised them artistically as practiced, then started the piece. To my surprise, I actually felt myself flowing with the music, really understanding each note, each forte and piano marking for the first time. So this was why I played piano.
    Three weeks later, I found myself back on the stage.
    “And next, we have Beethoven’s Sonata in G, opus 49 number 2, performed by gold medalist Iris Ely, with a score of 95.” Loud cheers and applause came from the audience. I saw my mom and dad smiling broadly at me, my sister and brother waving at me, and Mrs. Neiweem’s, blue eyes shining with acknowledgement. 
    The final time, the door opened inside out. We were both crying this time, the old lady and I. Our tears reflected our time together, the good days, and the bad days; the wonderful memories, and the painful ones; the lessons learned, and the lessons lost. Her eyes now crinkled even more than before, but they still had the same pure blue glow to them. I was the taller one now, my 13 year old frame standing at 5’1” to her 5’0”.
    “You take care now,” she said gently. “You had better improve by the next time I see you.”
I nodded, brushed a hand across my face, and stepped out the door, one last time.
    Then a new door appeared in my life. Full of apprehension, I moved my hand up to knock, and was ushered inside by an severe looking lady. If Mrs. Neiweem was the embodiment of classical piano, with her sleek clothes, and generally quiet demeanor, Mrs. Swain was the embodiment of her style, jazz. She was an energetic, excited, and sometimes sarcastic woman whom I liked immediately.
    Playing jazz really made me feel free, as opposed to the uptight classical style. I still had to practice as much as before; however I didn’t have to make sure every little note, every staccato, ever piano marking, every tie was all perfect. In jazz, one is able to express oneself the way one wants. Honestly, even while playing jazz, practicing still doesn’t come easily to me. Some days I have this spurt of creativity, and all I want to do is play the piano until my fingers hurt, but most days I kind of just shrug it off, say I’m going to do it later—but then forget. But despite the burden, piano is entwined with my life now. It snaked its way into my heart, and maybe at first it pulled me through that door. I’ve learned, however, that maybe that door with the old lady with the kind eyes and the bite in her voice—maybe that door was the right one. Maybe, at the beginning, I just was the wrong person entering it.


Message to Readers

Hey! It’s Iris. Thank you for taking the time to read my piece! I’d love if you could review it, and help me out. I think my ending is a little bit weak and doesn’t do as great a job of wrapping up the piece as I’d like to, do if I could get pointers on that, it would be great, however any help at all would be appreciated. Thanks!


Peer Review

I really admire the manner in which the story hooked me since its very first beginning, making me wondering what kind of fantasticl creation is this going to be. And it showed up not dissappointing me. And the title didn't give me the slightest spoiler about the subject of this story.


I guess that everyone could actually relate to the first part of the narrative: when we all were young and angry, and everyone was (and still is for some of us) like only against us; when our parents seem to be the cruelest ones in this world and we only want to play. But when we grow up we find ourselves to thank our parents for their decisive choices which lead us to our own later success; our teachers for never give up in front of some "spoiled and unforgiving" children.


Oh, here I really wanted to talk about something. The character of Claire Neiweem really intrigued me, making me want to find out more about this interesting relationship, apparently, at the beginning at least, very bad for both the teacher and the pupil. It made me hope that I am going to see during the story a future development of it, or details from those "good days, and the bad days; the wonderful memories, and the painful ones; the lessons learned, and the lessons lost." But the writing was coming to an end, the words were finishing and I got only a final detail about the resolution of everything: "Her eyes now crinkled even more than before, but they still had the same pure blue glow to them." Everything was fine after all.
But my point is that the character is a key one, having the very central role of the whole story, getting the major responsibility and concern in the development of the protagonist. She was, I'd dare to say, the very master who conducted the girl on those stages, instilling her the first love- which developed years later, on that first stage, that first contest- and first tangencies with the piano.


As I commented, the very last sentences of the ending were just perfect in a manner I never expected. You chose the exact right words to make the exact right reference to the beginning: to the "wrong door" you started with, showing by this beautiful piece of writing that neither the person who entered it nor it, were actually wrong this whole time (despite the way you chose to end everything: "Maybe, at the beginning, I just was the wrong person entering it."
But, as you said yourself in the message meant for the readers, the rest of the ending (because the ending is never only a sentence which I like so much), it was indeed a bit weak. It felt more like there had to be more, a new beginning, a lot of questions (Who is that mesmerizing jazz lady? Will she be the best teacher for Iris? How is their relationship going to develop?) when actually the whole time there was just a desperate trying to end it already. But you had done it smoothly, like fooling the readers and pranking them at the end: "Hey! It's over! Go back to reality! To your lives!"


Well, of course, you can follow my comments, or not, for future improvements. I am not an absolute instance to trust my word to what is better or worst. I just think that your writing is great and your future writings I bet they are going to be even greater! Maybe we'll get another story figuring Iris? Maybe I'll get the answers to my questions? Other adventures into the world of music and piano? Or something truly new and mesmerizing?


Reviewer Comments

In my comments, I used the word "character" instead of "you", because I believe that even if the narrator is subjective, and the story a personal one, the narrator ( a character here) is still fictional since the literature gives the author the infinite possibility to manipulate the reality as they wish.