A few months ago, I started reaching out to local writers to see if I could network and be part of that community. I've been attending several meetings at the Press 53 Center for Creative Writing.
What I didn't know is that the Center is new, itself. They are also reaching out and trying to fill the needs of the writing community in the Winston Salem area. A month ago, they launched a Critique Group initiative.
In June, only two people showed up. I was one of the two. It wasn't enough to get a good critique going, so the two of us brainstormed for thirty minutes, and then joined the Open Mike that was going on in the next room over.
In July (last night), the Center decided to combine Open Mike with the Critique Group, as attendance was light in both groups. We tried the format of reading 5-7 minutes of our work, and then oral feedback. Five of us read. It turned out pretty well for me. I thought I had written an awesome story that would blow everyone away, but my story turned out to be the weakest of the five. The other listeners found problems, and now I know what my story needs.
It was good to receive quick feedback, but I also realize that I'm much more effective in giving written feedback. I'm not the best listener, and I'm also not the best on-the-spot communicator. It's something I need to work on.
My guess is that we will try this format again in August. It has pros and cons. You only get to read somewhere around 3 pages, but you get instant feedback, which you can most likely apply to the rest of your story. We may experiment with other critiquing formats.
If you're an aspiring writer in the Winston Salem area and you'd like to get feedback on a story, please consider coming in August. This is a free service, and is participant-led. If we have enough people, we'll start breaking up into smaller groups. We'll make this out to be what we want it to be. We meet every 2nd Tuesday, so our next meeting is August 9. See you there!