There’s a good chunk of the residency devoted to Workshop, that place were groups of us hang out and get work critiqued for a good hour or so. The groups are artificially random – that is, there are a balance of genres and people at various stages of the program with little else to connect them – spread out over the course of the coming week or so. Usually two folks are reviewed at each Workshop except for the first day, which is all about laying out ground rules for the group in addition to one critique, and the last day, which includes the last person and a summary of the Workshop experience.
Guess who drew the first critique for his Workshop on Wednesday.
A year ago when I started the program I think I would have plotzed had I gone first. I think most first semester students would, which is why a second or third semester goes first. Of course now that I’m up I’m totally cool with it. There’s a certain amount of anticipation that comes with waiting for your turn, and the further down the list your turn is the worse it feels. You sit throgh all the other crits hearing people’s opinions, their thought processes, the way they think, and you cringe at every misstep you hear as it applies to your own piece.
My first semester, throughout the rez there had been a sort of running theme about prologues; What is the point and purpose of a prologue, does it detract from the story, are there certain rules that apply, are they even necessary? As we get to read a section of our Workshop piece before being critiqued and get to address prefatory remarks (before being forced to remain silent for an hour while everyone else talks about your work) I announced “Okay, I get it. The prologue chapter has to go,” which saved me having to cringe through fifteen minutes of that discussion.
The advantage, of course, is that you get the crit out of the way before the group really gets its footing and can lay into you. It isn’t so much a question of setting a bar (though it could be depending on the piece) as it is that this group is still trying to sort through their dynamic while talking ablout your work. This means that there’s a slight leaning toward the personal perspective rather than the academic one. After four or five critiques people are referencing various lectures and comments previously made and a real reaction to the piece at hand is like mining gold buried in the iron pyrite.
So tomorrow then, I get to hear what this group of folks thinks about my crazy YA story about a couple guys who try to get out of a Community Service requirement at their high school. I’m already bracing mself for some misunderstandings about the protagonists (there is more than one), the narrative voice (not set yet), and the fact that I’m writing it as an ensemble peice. Hopefully I won’t be too devistated to post the reaction a couple of days from now.