Monday, August 1, 2011

Applying and Analyzing Constructive Criticism with the Texas Sweethearts

This past Saturday, eighteen attendees met at the REI in Round Rock (outskirts of Austin) for an intensive workshop Beyond the Basics: Applying and Analyzing Constructive Criticism with the Texas Sweethearts hosted by our Austin SCBWI chapter

After formal introductions by RA Debbie Gonzales, Jessica Anderson, PJ (Tricia) Hoover and Kari Anne Holt presented the Art of the Effective Critique. They discussed logistics like guidelines, rules and protocol and delivering a constructive critique using the “Hamburger” analogy.

Then the five sweethearts (Jeanette Larson, Tricia, Kari, Jessica and Jo Whittemore) engaged in role playing. They showed us exaggerated critique scenarios using the various archetypes (Shy Guy, Jealous Person, The Pusher, Overbearing, Defensive, Bitchy, Stagnant Stalwart, to name a few). This portion of the program had attendees laughing at the ruses but also left the writers with an understanding of how to deal with challenging situations within the dynamics of a critique group.

                                            Texas Sweethearts Role Playing

Before guests broke for lunch, Jo presented writers with tools to use in their manuscript critiques and cheat sheets on what to look for as it relates to content (initial hook, conflict, plot and character development, motivation , turning point and much more) and style (voice, point-of-view, word choice, imagery and believability). She then modeled through open review for SCBWI members using a donated manuscript by Jessica Anderson. Attendees could easily see how her cheat sheet became the perfect dissecting tool to analyze manuscripts.

In the afternoon, two break-out sessions engaged attendees in critiques with peers led by the Texas Sweethearts as moderators and everyone gained feedback on a work in progress. Jeanette wrapped up the day with What Are You Giving? What Are You Getting? which illustrated the benefits of coaching, critiquing and editing.

In keeping with Austin tradition we had chocolate, snacks, drinks and wrap-up prizes to add the finishing touch to a successful day on craft. I must say Austin SCBWI rocks with their programs, but I guess I am a little biased being the ARA for the chapter. And I would highly recommend hiring those Texas Sweethearts who are also Scoundrels, too!

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