Critiquing Critique Clubs

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby Chandara5 » Tue Sep 01, 2009 5:36 pm

I believe constructive criticism is key. I don't think a chapter by chapter review is something that I would be able to commit to but if someone is having a specific issue with plot, characterization, dialogue etc. then i can probably offer my two cents, for what its worth. The critique should be honest, in a nice way. As for what makes anything publishable? As long as its the best you can give at the moment, then the rest, I believe, is chance; the luck of the draw; being in the right place at the right time comes to mind. Resilience is key and if its something you love, never give up.

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Re: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby Sharkeybutter » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:35 am

Welcome to the 'Doctor Feel Good Program'. I have to add my two cents to your comment. I appreciate your candor and analysis of your four week writing program and having taught over 20 years in an inner city high school program, I will attest that you are not alone. Much of the 'feel good' education began in the 70's as a justifiable MO for learning. Hogwash! What we have spawned is generations of 'feel good illiterates'. Let me explain. As a department chair, I was asked by my principal (a brilliant Harvard Phd.) to sit in on the evaluation of the new candidates for the National Honor Society. Good, I thought, this should be interesting. Oh, it was that alright and so much more. I would be judging, along with about 15 other campus notables, the 'essays' by the candidates. The essays had the usual: why do you think you should be a NHS member, tell us your community service, kind of requirements, written in a few paragraphs, you know, beginning-middle-end kinda thing. It was fairly wide open and most of us were disposed to grant admission to the NHS to any worthy candidate. Of course, the minimum requirement was 'academic excellence', 3.5 or better, etc.

Then came the shock. Some of the 'candidates' handed in a two sentences, written in pencil, bad penmanship to boot, and in less than 1st grade English. There were about 10 more just like it, either side of ridiculous. Out of the 15 or so candidates, only 2 nailed it even close. The English was especially horrendous. Now, with the fact that we had a minority population in the English as Second Language (ESL) program which topped at about 30 % of our population, questionable English was expected. Mind you, none of us wanted our kids to miss the mark. We all are cheerleaders for our brave, struggling, English language learners, but ... I have my limits. I questioned the group and asked if this was acceptable to pass these kids along and give them a stamp of approval which to me stated that these candidates, regardless of GPA, are acceptable on a national level. Some, especially, the ESL contingent were indignant that I would question their students acceptability. To your issue: feeling good about yourself and having only 'good' comments blown your way, I'm sure all these kids got was this attitude from the teachers, etc. It was painfully obvious.

If you're wondering what I did: I gathered my things, said that I wouldn't be a party to this type of charade, requested that my name not be associated with it and walked out.

My principal? He quite naturally got wind of my actions, but after requesting to see the 'questionable' candidates statements, laughed, and totally agreed with me, slammed the counseling department head for even forwarding such tripe and asked the head of the ESL department to find another school (in a nice way of course). So, there is hope, but this scenario, I'll bet has played out numerous times over the years.

No, blowing smoke up someone's posterior does a disservice to everyone and avoid those type of critique groups if you can. My apologies for the long-windedness here, but, keep writing and thinking about your writing.

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RE: Critiquing Critique Clubs

Postby gumboWriters » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:08 am

Trying out to find the messages embedded in writing is one of the challenging jobs of Critics, the person has to find that whether the aim of the writer is going on in the right direction or not.


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