Monthly Archives: August 2021

Stepping UP

By Susan Wroble, August 2021

I love the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I’ve been a member for a very long time (since 2004), but for most of the first decade and a half, I would attend the regional conferences, and write and file. It was only after our kids were grown that I was able to focus on writing more seriously.

It has been a very rough year for SCBWI. What had started as a labor of love had grown over a half-century into a large international professional society, and the structure had not always kept up with best practices. For various reasons, all of the regional team members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter resigned en masse this summer. I felt sure of only one thing—I wanted to make sure our chapter survives this crisis.

In normal times, I doubt if I would have ever applied to be a regional team member, but among my skill set were pieces that I thought would help. Most importantly, I am pretty good at keeping organizations going. As one example, I’ve run a long-standing support group for parents of twice-exceptional children. These kids are both highly gifted and have numerous learning issues. Most are on the autism spectrum; many have health issues and nearly all struggle with anxiety and depression. As a result, my role is often listening, and helping people find resources when they are at extremely difficult times in their lives. Similar groups tend to have social workers or psychologists as their moderator. That’s not me (I majored in engineering!). Yet somehow, I’ve managed to keep this group afloat for so long that some of our “kids” are now post-college.

I’d also organized large events, including multi-day regional speech meets with hundreds of competitors and judges. And I’d had experience volunteering in various capacities with SCBWI. Since 2018, I’ve co-led, with author Judy Rose, the Denver South Connect. After consulting with the outgoing team, I decided it was time to step up.

With the amazing writer, illustrator, caricature artist and graphic novelist Stan Yan, I’m honored to say I’ve been selected as one of the new Co-Regional Advisors for SCBWI’s Rocky Mountain Chapter. The outgoing regional team has been incredibly generous both with their time and in helping us understand the workings of the chapter. Unfortunately, anytime an entire team leaves, institutional knowledge will be lost. While I had loved our programming and had hoped to keep things going as they were, due to the timing of the resignations, the fall conference had to be put on hold. Some of our other programs are also on hold while we find new volunteers.

Thus far, it’s been a steep learning curve. I know that the year might live up to the chapter name—it will likely be Rocky. I’m committed to embracing that rockiness. I have gotten so very much from this chapter, and I want to keep it supporting others as it has helped me.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under RMC-SCBWI, Susan Wroble

Receiving Feedback

Critiquing is a critical part of the writing process – getting feedback from others gives us guidance and can shed a light on where we might focus in revision. There is so much we can’t see as the writer of our own work and getting other people’s responses to what we’ve written is truly illuminating.

 

But receiving feedback – literally sitting there while someone tells us what they think about our work –can be hard. Sometimes it can be really hard. It’s great when people say, “I love what you’ve done!” but it can be hard to listen to people say, “Here are the things I think you need to fix.”  It can even be hard when they say, “I love what you’ve done but here are some things to fix.” Someone can love your piece, and it can still need work.

The fact is, even if it it’s combined with positive feedback, receiving critical feedback can be challenging.

Here are a few recommendations for how to handle the moments when your piece is getting critiqued.

  • If your group is reading the piece for the first time while together, allow someone else to read your piece aloud. Hearing where they read smoothly and where they stumble can give great insight as to where you might want to revise at the sentence and word level.
    • No critique partners? Critique partners read everything in advance? Your piece is longer than a picture book or a few pages? Use a Read Aloud function, like you can find in Word – Google docs also seems to have a text to read function
  • Try to take feedback in and listen without getting upset.  It’s very natural to have a knee-jerk reaction to critical feedback. “But that’s not what I meant” or “you’re not understanding” – if they didn’t understand, it might not be on the page the way it is on your head. Try to take in critical feedback without being defensive.
    • If you’re too defensive or upset receiving critical feedback, it may hurt people’s ability to be honest with you in the future.
    • The exception — respond to any kind of clarifying question that will help someone provide feedback from a place of understanding
    • Sometimes one critiquer will say something is missing on the page (a motivation, for example, or an emotion), while another critiquer will have gotten exactly what you were trying to say. In this instance, consider whether what you are trying to get across is obvious enough. It may be. It may not.
  • Relish the positive things people have to say. You need to learn what works in your work. Even if a line is cut or a scene doesn’t make it, if people loved it, find out why so you can replicate.
    • Some people are great at this. For others, it can be really hard to take in the positive. Some people want to skip right over the positive and get to the critical because that’s where the work is, but make notes about what people love, so you can keep those things in your writing, and celebrate those things as the critical feedback comes rolling in.

 

What other recommendations do you have else for those moments during a critique while people are actively giving you feedback?

 

**Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Filed under Coral Jenrette, craft advice, critique, Revision process