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by Maggie Ferguson
I learned of a similar sort of generosity in Julia Fierro’s weeklong workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Julia, author of the novel Cutting Teeth and founder and director of Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop in Brooklyn, instructed us in her method of giving critiques.
Here’s what she advocated: examining each successful line in a submission and describing what specific craft choices made this work, and then doing the same with weaker lines, suggesting what the writing might need. This approach demanded that we undertake a detective-like investigation of all writing, regardless of our own personal stylistic preferences, for moments of mineable potential.
A reading that close requires a lot of work, which is where kindness comes into play. The reader has to dedicate a lot of time, effort, and thought to their critiques.
But this dedication yields rewards. In return for this close reading, she argues, you will:
Good, detailed feedback is invaluable to a writer trying to grow. This approach both encourages writers to come prepared to workshop and creates a workshop space of Julia-like welcome and warmth.
Maggie Ferguson is a long-time Lighthouse member and the official Tweeter ™ of Lighthouse. Her fiction has appeared in Stone Crown’s Magazine and elsewhere.