I haven't stopped writing, but I have stopped blogging. This is something I need to remedy, because so much of the author-reader experience these days includes internet interaction. In this vein, I may soon break down and get a twitter account. I've been holding off for ages because I feel like twitter is contributing to the poor grammar of America. If you're restricted to 140 characters, you feel justified in taking shortcuts.

But I don't want to turn this into a rant about social media. It is a powerful force, and should not be ignored.

What I want to write about instead is workshopping.

I just got back from my third residency at the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. Aside from being the only program of its kind in the country (there are plenty of MFA creative writing programs, but only one that focuses entirely on genre fiction), it is also the first writing program I've been involved with that fosters good, constructive workshop sessions. Sometimes I've stumbled into good critique groups almost by mistake, but most of my undergrad writing classes were fraught with disdain and disparagement. Often the professors egged on the students in their destructive critiques. I escaped that world and switched to studying literature (mythology and folklore was my specialty) just to keep a hold on my sanity.

But Seton Hill isn't like that.

Here's what I love:

They've learned from their mistakes. The first class you ever take at Seton Hill now is a class on critiquing. You learn the "sandwich" method (positive comment, constructive critique, positive comment), and how to explain what you feel rather than saying, "I didn't like this." Then you don't have a workshop until the next day, which gives you time to revise any critiques you may already have completed.

Every workshop is moderated by an instructor who has copious workshop experience. This is more important than you might believe. The students can easily take over a workshop unless the moderator is on top of things.

The joy of workshopping a piece is found in having so many inquisitive writer-minds focused on your manuscript for an hour. No matter what genre they write, other writers have fantastic insights into the process and can spot all sorts of things you, as the author, are too close to the work to see. I love workshops and critique groups because I get so much out of them that makes me a better writer. I hope I give a little back, too.
I haven't posted in a million years, but I thought I would pop in to say hello just before I head off into the wilds of Pennsylvania for Residency. My first term has been a rough one. The work hasn't been difficult, but juggling that with a full time job, a toddler who is sick more often than not, a spine injury, costume side jobs, and anything resembling free time has been a bit of a trick. Fortunately I'm insane about lists and schedules, and that keeps me in line.

I've managed to get nearly all of my critiques finished, and I should have time to finish the last two before the final workshop session on Sunday. Speaking of which, my work doesn't get critiqued until the last day this time. As a 'One,' I was critiqued on the first day of workshops, which was a bit harrowing. But it turned out to be a nice thing, because we only had two stories in our group and I got to have a lot of time and feedback. All of it was constructive and positive. Time will reveal if my next workshop will uphold that experience or dash it to pieces.

I'm falling asleep on the couch as I write this, which means it's time for bed. I still haven't packed...probably not the best thing to put off until the last minute, but laundry didn't happen over the weekend because I had to work.

Off to bed I go.

July 2011

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