DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine has always said she wants to be an author. She’s never published anything. Recently, she presented me with a manuscript that she says she has been working on for years. It reads a bit like a memoir, but I do not think it is very good. The thoughts are not coherent. What do I say to her? I have written a little bit here and there, but I am no editor. I don’t really know how to help her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings. What do I say to someone who is so passionate, but who really doesn’t have the chops to do it? -- Wannabe Writer
DEAR WANNABE WRITER: Unless you have the power to publish a book, do not assume that you have the authority to determine whether your friend has the chops to be an author. Table that thought.
Beyond that, you can recommend that your friend take a class or participate in a writer’s workshop. These days, there are specific workshops designed for people who want to write memoirs, so she can get specific if she likes. It can be both helpful and like a splash of cold water in your face to sit with a group of fellow writers and share your work. In those settings, you receive constructive criticism, often guided by a group leader -- often a professional writer or editor. In that environment, your friend may gain the ability to refine her writing and learn how to tell her story.
Further, because of the advent and popularity of self-publishing, your friend can choose to publish her book on her own. You should encourage her to get as much professional support as she can so that she strengthens her craft, thereby making her final product as good as it can be.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I had a dream that my teenage daughter was at a rock concert and was raped in the bathroom at the venue. I know that’s a horrible thought, but it was so vivid that I woke up crying. I’m thinking I had this dream so that I can remind my daughter of how important it is to be cautious and to travel in pairs. She gets tired of me giving her safety directions all the time, but now that she is growing up, I know that she needs to remain cautious as she also becomes more independent. Do I tell her about my dream? What should I do? -- Protecting My Teenager
DEAR PROTECTING MY TEENAGER: You don’t necessarily need to relay the vivid details of your dream to your daughter. You should clearly and firmly remind her of your rules for being safe in public. I don’t think men or women should go into public restrooms in arenas or nightclubs alone. It is always safer in twos. Same goes for walking down darkened hallways. Remind your daughter to NEVER take a drink she didn’t see poured or she didn’t open herself.
Feel free to sit down with your daughter and explain that it is your job to remind her to be vigilant -- not because you don’t trust her, but because the world is filled with all kinds of people, not all of whom have her best interest at heart.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)