Friday, February 5, 2010

First Thursday Recap

Last night's meeting was a little more low key than the previous two, and perhaps as a result, a bit more productive. The quick rundown:
  1. Kay announced the project for the GFWG this year -- a publication to debut at The Chronicle Book Fair in November! We last published a collection of our work in 2005, so as Kay said, "It's time." Basic rule is that a piece an author wants published must be workshopped through the GFWG in 2010 to be eligible, but everything else is wide open. We could get some big help in putting it all together form Sandy, who works at the CCE (the Cornell Coopertive Extension. Yes, I had to ask, too). Should look very professional. The as-yet-to-be-formed committee will meet at 6pm, or an hour before the next meeting, on Feb. 18
  2. We reinstituted an old rule (and one I've been pushing for almost since my return last Nov.) -- authors don't get to talk during their critique. The work must stand on its own. Plenty of other groups use this rule, and if we allowed time for author rebuttal, we're going to have to add another hour to the meeting. And when I say rule, I mean more of a guideline because it's really hard to tstick to.
  3. Instead of bringing 10 copies, writers will now need to make 12 to account for swelling membership.

Now, on to the critiques. We got further into Zack's always twisted world, continuing with The Dead Machine. Interesting how diverse interpretations and impressions are of his work. Michelle continues to challenge the nonpoets, but hopefully gets some added insight from our two new poets (Alison and the long-lost Montana (welcome back!)). We gave Katie suggestions on how to expand her short story Avalanche! while helping Billy reconcile shifts in his Electra short. We laughed along with Sandy's continued family adventures, and welcomed back Jim, who finally received feedback on his intriguingly titled Godot Strikes Back. Jim gets bonus points for quoting one of my contentions that "all work is autobiographical" during the meeting.

Another interesting, fast-paced gathering. See you in two weeks when we critique works from Billy, Michelle, Zack, Sandy (2), Montana, Cynthia, me, and a first submission from Jerri Lynn. Our production remains strong.


Brian said...

The only thing I'd add is that this should be a general rule, not absolute. I think it's legit for an author to ask something like, "I intended to get across x and y. Do you think I succeeded?" I think a little bit of interactivity is fine, even beneficial, so long as it's in that spirit, so long as the authors keep their interventions limited. If interactivity is banned completely, then what's the point of saying the critiques aloud when you could just give it to the author and let him/her read it.

That said, I think the 'no comment' thing is good as a general rule. Sometimes, we get authors contesting almost every single point made by critiquers and it can be exasperating. The process is not adversarial, so writers should try not to take it personally. Writers should remember that critiques are simply intended as feedback. You're always free to take it or leave it. But if you ask for feedback (which you are, by definition, when you submit things), then at least listen to it with an open mind.

John Briggs said...

I don't think it should be absolute either, though I fear we run the risk of give an inch, take a yard. Authors are certainly allowed to respond if asked a direct question, or if something has come up for debate among two members and needs to be settled. Authors who want to know if they managed x and y, or if something in particular comes across, or if the dialogue works, etc., should probably follow an old rule about putting it on the front sheet so reviewers know to look for it. Although I'm against that, too, since once they become aware of it, well, it tends to slant their opinions. Perhaps, if not that, then the author can ask upon finish his 2-3 page reading.

Any thoughts, Kay?

Brian said...

Yeah I think it's a careful balance. We've seen the effects of give an inch, take a mile. But the flip side is that if there's no interactivity whatsoever and the author can't ask about something s/he was trying to accomplish, then why listen to comments aloud when you can just read them on paper. I just think we should emphasize that authors' interventions (unless responding to a direct question) should be very minimal and should be designed to get clarification, not counter every little critiquing point.

Kay Hafner said...

Now that we're making a conscious effort to follow this again, I'll work on being a better umpire. It works hand-in-hand with managing critique times in general now that we have such a full table and full docket of submissions. I have some ideas to try.

I agree with Brian's comment on interactivity. Interaction, between the author and the other members, often leads us to undiscovered points and further understanding of writing in general.

"If it's not on the pages we have, an author can't discuss it," will be my mantra to help cut down on rebuttals.

More productive critiques are in everyone's better interest.