It’s Day Two here at Write by the Lake, and in a few short hours, I’ll be getting some feedback on the opening pages to my book about Paul Tamburello, my former fourth grade teacher, mentor and friend.
Although I’ve worked on the project a long time and am eager to complete it this year, I will say that the first day’s emphasis on thinking through story, conflict, internal and external tension, and the choices of the protagonist and antagonist will take me a while to incorporate.
I don’t love the opening I have-it feels more like a placeholder for the ending than a dynamic way to begin the story-and am optimistic that some of my fellow participants’ comments will help me improve its quality.
We had eight 10-minute critiques yesterday, and, for the most part, people tread lightly.
In the context of making the point that truth can be a pinprick, rather than a hammer, she describes a situation in which one member of a writing group asks, in essence, “Is it just me, or is this piece terrible?”
Unsurprisingly, this question does not elicit a particularly positive reaction from the person whose work was being evaluated or from Lamott, the instructor.
I have written before about the importance of a culture of candor and hope that people are not too delicate with what I know are the piece’s shortcomings. Receiving such feedback used to be a painful experience in which I personally felt not so much attacked, but pained, that the reader was not having a rapturous experience and did not want instantly to recommend me to the Pulitzer, if not Nobel, Prize committees.
Working at The Chicago Reporter, where we toil for months on end for stories that cover barely five pages and occasionally elicit comment, has helped me thicken my feedback hide.
That said, I, as any honest writer will tell you, do put a lot into the work and do have more than a spectator’s interest in people’s response.
I’ll report later on what people say and whether anyone in the room matches her former student’s brutal honesty.