• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You’ll Never Know Dear How Much I Love You

Is it better to give or receive? I’m talking about feedback. When I was in poetry workshops, the rule was the poet, after reading his or her work, was not allowed to speak. The reason being that talking back or answering shut down your readers and made it impossible for the poet to actually listen to the feedback. Listen? Whenever people talked about my poems it came through as whale song. Why not just put the poet in a temporary grave? Once in a while,  one of the poets would break the rule and…speak! Usually something insane like, “But that’s how it really happened,” or “you had to be there.” Poor poor boo boo. Really, just listen. Even when your biggest enemy says he doesn’t get it or the young depressed woman in a straw beret who has never before spoken summons the courage to tell you that your controlling metaphor breaks down in the four stanza, just listen. There is time for McDonalds later. My mother always repeated the wisdom of the ages: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. There’s that, too.

Are you better at giving or receiving feedback?

8 Responses

  1. As a professional editor, I’d rather give feedback than just about anything else. It’s why I’m such a hit at parties. (But I do appreciate good feedback.)

    I recently read an article about how the cone of silence doesn’t necessarily serve the writer. If you have a conversation in which the writer says “I’m trying to do X” then the class will help the reader do X rather than talk about the many ways Y isn’t working. I don’t fully buy it, but I was ready to listen.

  2. I hate giving feedback. Rip me apart, call me inept, trash my efforts, I will take it in quietly and cry into my fries on the way home. Just don’t ask me to dash your dreams. I’ll hand that over to someone better qualified to yank your chain.

  3. there’s nothing better than editorial feedback from an editor who cares, who is genuinely curious and wants the best for the story.

    i’m good at receiving editorial feedback. i’m good at giving it too. editing and rewriting is the true work of a writer and i like working hard. but my days of the workshop are pretty much over–too much energy used up.

    one on one editorial feedback is for me.


  4. This is an interesting question.

    I’m good at receiving it – particularly if the source is someone with “authority.” (agent/editor) I’m *pretty* good when it’s coming from early readers – but I don’t use betas much – I’d rather have the feedback coming from the agent/editor.

    I think the catch is exactly that when it comes to receiving it – if it’s from a peer group, like the poet example above? One can’t help but think some of that criticism might be a little green monster.

    I’m hesitant to give feedback if I get a hold of something and it’s BAD, and I know it’s BAD. I dip my toe in the water carefully in those situations.

  5. “Are you better at giving or receiving feedback?”

    I don’t know. Probably receiving. Don’t have to think about the output, just take in and consider the input. And I always appreciate that a reader has taken the time to form and give an opinion. There’s always something to be learned, even if it’s not the lesson supposedly being given.

  6. “There is time for McDonalds later.” Love that! I don’t think I’m great at either end…and I don’t like hurting people’s feelings/throwing their writing dreams into the pit of despair. So, I write in my vacuum a lot of the time, which isn’t the best solution…but there it is.

  7. I usually have a good hunch if the feedback I’m receiving is on target, even if it hurts a bit to hear it. Giving negative feedback to another writer is more difficult, because I tend to think: Who the hell am I to say this?

    Well, I’m nobody. But I provide the feedback and then count on the writer’s hunch to serve her well, too.

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