Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cold Read Critiques at the Homosassa Library

Flossie Benton Rogers, Loretta Rogers, and Elissa Malcohn
Photo credit: Barbara Cairns.
L-R: Citrus County Library director Flossie Benton Rogers, Western and romance author Loretta Rogers, and me.

The Citrus County Library's NaNoWriMo series has finished another year. We started the series with a Kickoff in October and continued with a Write-In in November, when NaNo participants were in the thick of drafting their novels. The third, critique, component occurred in March, after writers had a chance to catch their breaths and polish their manuscripts.

Loretta Rogers and I have been panelists in the NaNo series since 2007. This year we tried a different approach for March, doing a modified version of a cold read. Writers (NaNo participants or not) were invited to submit one single-spaced page ahead of time. Loretta and I spent a day at the library writing critique notes on each submission and evaluating each on its hook, plot and conflict, characterization, dialogue, style and pacing, and overall impression.

We compared notes after dealing with each submission separately. We were in agreement on almost everything, though our evaluations diverged in a couple of spots. That's to be expected, and it points out the subjective quality of the editorial process.

During the event, for each submission in turn, Citrus County Library director Flossie Benton Rogers read the page aloud, Loretta and I gave verbal critiques, and we then clipped our evaluations and markups together for the writer to pick up after the event. Writers submitted their pages anonymously and were also instructed to remain quiet through the critiques, pay attention to comments made about other submissions, and keep in mind that the person being critiqued might be sitting next to them.

As luck would have it, our critique session came a couple of weeks after Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest did a cold read webinar. You can read the comments she tweeted here, after her notes on memoir. We shared that with our audience, along with bits from The Rejectionist's blog entry "A Word" and Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog entry "Slushkiller."

Loretta and I had joked, half-seriously, that Flossie might need to escort us quickly out the back door afterward, but our concerns were unfounded. Audience members thanked us for being honest with them, said they found the session very informative, and asked great questions during the Q&A session.

Thanks to everyone who participated, to Loretta (who also provided the instructions and comment sheet), and to Flossie and the library staff for their terrific support of local authors!

My next event will be the Florida State Poets Association's "Spring Fling," where I'll give the workshop "Worth a Thousand Words: Using Photographic Techniques in Poetry." Happy National Poetry Month!

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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Anonymous Jane Friedman said...

Appreciate your mention of my session - and so glad it could help others!

4:11 PM  

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