First Cup of Coffee – August 26, 2022

More on critique groups and workshops, how to tell if crit is toxic and what to do about it, critique during the drafting stage vs during revision, and my extended analogy of shaken baby syndrome and how it applies to early drafting.




Transcript
00:03.15
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

00:14.70
jeffekennedy
It’s actually my second cup of coffee I have had a morning people. Ah I will tell you that today is just say it with me Friday woo which is good and bad I can’t believe it’s already friday. August Twenty sixth and if you’re on video. You’ll see that I’m recording inside I recorded one podcast already outside in the grape arbor and it was a really good podcast I mean I I feel like I can say that now. Because um, well I feel like I can say it because ah it’s gone. It’s lost forever I kept getting these weird alerts as I was talking and they were annoying.

01:09.73
jeffekennedy
So so this morning. Ah yeah I don’t know why I kept gaining these alerts they were annoying me apparently the alerts meant that I all know that my part of the podcast wasn’t recording and. Since I’m the only part of the podcast I don’t know it’s I mentioned yesterday that Zencastr totally changed their thing while I was gone and now it’s messed up charming. So I’m re-recording. Here it is 10 in the morning normally I like to have my podcast totally done uploaded before 9 and have an hour of writing done by now and here I am recording my podcast I was trying all the recover backup things on it and had spent like an hour and finally I thought well. Better to just rerecord so the lost podcast ah I felt like I said some really good stuff all right anyway, I’m trying to let that go move on with my life I am going down to. Ah, Bubonicon this afternoon going to Albuquerque so I’m on the timeline and so so I’m basically screwed I’m also really fussing with this camera that is the exciting news that.

02:43.70
jeffekennedy
My aunt for my birthday gave me this New Webcam and so I only use it when I’m inside I tried using it outside yesterday and spent way too much time getting that to work. Um, technology here. So this is on my monitor now. So. So. It’s a lot better and it’s pretty isn’t that if you’re on video. It’s pretty so anyway, um, I wanted to address some things. Hopefully I’ll talk about them. Well so add ons to yesterday I appreciated the many comments I got. There were some wonderful insights and glad that my rambling made some sense so continuations from yesterday I realized that I’d never explicitly answered. Um. Or finished a thought I suppose I should say on toxic crit because I do get asked that a lot when I’m mentoring or doing author coaching and it it’s hard to know when critique is. Harsh versus when it’s toxic. So and and the answer is probably not a perfect one because the answer is is that you just have to know you have to sense it and I will explain so.

04:20.10
jeffekennedy
The thing to keep in mind is that when people give critiques they are not always um, they don’t always have your best interests at heart. Ah, people are jealous. People are competitive. People also have lots of their own shit going on in their heads that lead them to ah vent that shit in um, ways that are not great for you. Some people don’t have that going on but you don’t really know. So with a critique. Ah the rule of thumb but still applies for this that you give it 24 hours or 48 hours or a week ah to to sit and to let your own emotions attach detach. From the thing once your emotions have detached then you can come back and look at it and you can see are these my feelings or are they coming from somewhere else because you are always always always going to have feelings. Nope I’m gonna sneeze hold on. You’re always going to have your own feelings. About critique and that’s just that’s way it goes. It’s natural. Um, we all secretly hope that somebody will tell us that what we’ve written is perfect and transcendent and if you’ve asked someone to give critique. They’re always going to find something to tell you about it.

05:51.37
jeffekennedy
And sometimes it’s painful to hear and that’s just natural. That’s part of the process. But sometimes what they are telling you is not well meant they don’t have your best interests at heart. Um, their own poison has come out. And leaked onto the page or into their words and and it is quite literally toxic to your creativity. So that’s the thing to keep in mind um, give that waiting time and then if. After the waiting time you still feel. Ah, okay, so now I’m paying attention to these alerts that are popping up and it’s telling me it’s having problems saving the local backup which is new and irritating. And it’s entirely possible I’ll lose this podcast too. We um 1 thing about this though is once I stop it I cannot come back and um restart it. So I’m just gonna keep talking and. We’ll see what happens so um, okay, so keep in mind that as a creative and we know that you’re creative or you would not be listening to this particular podcast I know a lot of readers listen to this too for insights into the process. But.

07:26.55
jeffekennedy
If You’re a writer if you’re a creative you are you have intuition you have emotions and feelings. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to write the things you write. So You have to learn to trust those feelings and you have to learn to divide out your own feelings. Of you know things like um, chemical imbalances anxiety emotions that are coming from other places like dealing with family drama or things like that from what you are intuiting.

08:03.44
jeffekennedy
That’s coming from the person giving you the critique. So Not always always easy, but this is part of being a human being right? So we have to find ways to separate our real emotional responses. From those that are coming from other sources. So You know like feeling fear and anxiety about May may not mean that you need to fix a situation. It may mean that you have a chemical imbalance that needs Addressing. Or it may mean that you are anxious about this other situation and it’s bleeding over into this thing right? That’s part of being human so you separate these things you learn to divide it out So That’s part of what the waiting period does is that lets you separate your feelings. Just receiving critique in general from your feelings about that specific Critique. So Then what you do is after that waiting period You know you clear your mind and wait till you’re in a calm space and then you take a look at whatever notes you might have on it. And this is what I did I was in a cri group I’d been unhappy for a number of months I was never thrilled with the critique I was getting but I thought well you know I’m trying to move up to a new level this I’m trying to learn a new thing working with different people.

09:33.99
jeffekennedy
So I was really giving it the old college Try. So I come back from a particularly disheartening session I’d been working up a new book that I was going to go on submission with with my agent and I’d come away feeling really disheartened. From this crit group Session. So This is another sign. Um, ideally you should come away from crit sessions feeling excited and feeling like you know what? you’re gonna work on that is like oh okay I have insight I have inspiration I have ideas I’m gonna. Go forward with this if you come away feeling crushed. That’s a clue that’s a clue that that something’s gone Wrong. So Then what I did was I let that week go by I looked again at the manuscript. Some people are printed it out and made notes. And I looked at my own notes that I had taken as they were talking and as soon as I looked at the notes particularly from a certain person I just felt bad I felt that toxicity again. So That’s how I knew and I took those pages and I. Burned them which made me feel much better and sometimes that’s what you need to do as it seems dramatic but you have to clear that shit out of your life and out of your creative process. Ah, and I also burned my own notes on it and separated myself you know and then I went on.

11:10.14
jeffekennedy
To sell that particular book in a 3 book deal. So you know I feel like I I trusted my own intuition and I trusted what I was trying to do so That’s that that’s how you know if crit is toxic. Um. And in the end it comes down to if you feel like it’s toxic if you feel like it’s not benefiting you then that is the truth. Um, the only way that this can turn out badly if you don’t take people’s crit is you run the risk of of not becoming better. You run the risk of becoming someone like and this usually happens to very advanced authors who begin to believe that they are the best thing ever. You know like um, you know seeing an interview with Anne Rice once where she you know said well believe me, no one edits me and she was hugely successful I mean she was making tons of money. But arguably her books needed to be edited at that point in time and you know maybe she didn’t feel that way I mean obviously she didn’t feel that way. Maybe she was happy with the level of success that she had you know who am I to say she should have had those books edited. That’s that’s the only risk you run. You know, otherwise it’s if you decide that you’re not going to take critique from someone. You don’t have to trust yourself, it’s it’s your book. It’s your creative process. The other caveat I would throw in there is people who.

12:45.91
jeffekennedy
Ah self-published books that aren’t ready to be self-published. Um, you know if you don’t listen to the feedback you’re getting you run the risk of putting out a book. That’s not ready, but you have to sort those things out for yourself. Um. You are the one who will care most about your work always always ever. So another point that someone made and I’ve forgotten your name so apologies. But someone commented that it makes a big difference if it’s drafting versus revision and this is absolutely true. And one of the things that prompted yesterday’s podcast S.L. Huang’s essay on Tor dot com about writing workshops particularly science fiction and fantasy writing workshops. A lot of times what they’re doing is they are working at a drafting level and bringing those ideas to the group and workshopping them and yes critique at that level is very very different than if you are doing critique of a fully. Complete work that you are now at the revising process for some people that pressure of the critique workshop works really well yesterday I referenced Mary Robinette Kowal.

14:13.47
jeffekennedy
I happen to know that her process is very much crowdsourced. She works with a group of people who read as she writes and she retools as she goes. Um Andy Weir wrote the martian that way too. Some people love that collaborative process. And Mary Robinette comes out of a theater background and so she’s very used to a collaborative process and that really works well for her. Ah and she had commented that you’ll like after. Ah, Clarion I don’t know if it was clarion. But after a workshop like that that she had not written for a couple of years and it was because she was absorbing um to me that’s I don’t know I think that’s a sign that your creative process got a little crushed but you know I can’t speak to. You know she’s very happy with her results and she’s doing well so you know own your process right? It’s different for everyone. The thing is for many of us including yours truly the drafting process is a very fragile place to be and it is easily damaged. So if you are doing a workshop like clarion or Taos toolbox or something else where you are drafting and you are involving people in the process very early on debt can be can be difficult and note that.

15:40.57
jeffekennedy
With that kind of intensive workshopping. You are also not getting that 24 hours 48 hours one week of buffer to come back and evaluate instead you’re coming back day after day after day and getting crit from those same people. So the toxicity can build up. Um, and. So my favorite analogy for this which is content warning here I call it shaken baby syndrome. So if you don’t want to go with that analogy if that’s upsetting for you tap out now. But I find it a really useful metaphor because. When you have a new draft when you have a new story. It is like an infant. It’s um, brand new to the world. It is fragile. It’s also very easy to love your new baby.

16:34.22
jeffekennedy
And it’s It’s a wonderful stage of the process because you have this infant you can hold all of it in your Arms. You can hold it close and cradle it and it needs you and and you need it and then there’s this pure. Imperfect love between you and the new Baby. The new baby idea. But the new baby is also helpless. It is not able to feed itself. Its Bones aren’t formed yet. It can’t walk. It can’t grasp things on its own. Um, even it’s It’s a little skull. The bones aren’t hardened yet to protect its tiny Brain. Ah. It’s a vulnerable little baby and it needs lots of nurturing and this is what we do with the new story ideas we cradle it and we hold it and we feed it and we we daydream with it it naps and we nap a little bit with it and it’s.. It’s a very important part of that initial idea ah later as that story grows up and develops legs and is able to go out and like do things on its own. Ah it’s tougher. Right? Your your children grow up so you want to think in terms of who do you trust with your infant baby Idea. So if you take that infant and you hand it to someone who is the equivalent of a college.

18:08.42
jeffekennedy
Admissions person who job it is to decide whether or not that baby is ready for college and you hand them this little infant they’re going to take that child and they’re gonna hold it up and they’re gonna shake it. You know, but bla. But that’s where shake and baby comes in. Ah I know it’s gross, but it scrambles the idea right? And also they start demanding all sorts of questions right? They they want to know they ask this baby. You know what about this, you know and how do you know about? What do you know about Calculus and you know like what sort of public service have you taught. And of course it’s an infant. It can’t answer. It’s not ready yet and when they hand the idea back to you and they say well this isn’t any good. It’s not ready for college. It’s you know tap talk can’t walk I mean I were dribbled. Ah, it’s not good enough. Well of course it’s not good enough. It’s not ready for college yet. It’s not ready to put through that level of examination and when you get this baby back. It might be irreparably damaged and what you do then? So what you want to do with your infant baby ideas is you want to think in terms of. Who do you trust to hold your baby. Ah, you want someone who loves you and by extension loves your idea you want someone that you can trust to take it and nurture it. You want the fairy godmother for your infant idea right.

19:42.57
jeffekennedy
You want the fairy godmother who will take it and give it magic who will give it ideas and say ah I think this child will be a genius I think that this child is going to grow up to bring love and light to the world and. Let me give it my blessings let me give it what it needs to grow up. These are the people that you want to share your brand new ideas with and if you don’t do that You run the risk right? so. This is my extended analogy On. Um you know who do you involve in your critique process at what point you know later after your baby has grown up and it’s a teenager and it has become insolent and difficult to deal with that’s when you send it off. For the college admissions interviews and when it comes Back. You’re like okay so you’ve got to go back to summer school or you know you need to improve your ah physical conditioning. Whatever let me let me help you with this so that eventually your child your book Your story. Can graduate from college and go into the world and deal with the slings and arrows arrows of professional life. So on that note coming to try recover what I can of my morning try to get something done before I head down to Bubonicon If you’re going to be there say hello.

21:15.75
jeffekennedy
And otherwise I will talk to you all on Monday you all take care bye-bye.

First Cup of Coffee – August 25, 2022

My thoughts on writing workshops, critique groups, taking critique, and other musing spurred by S.L. Huang’s excellent essay on Tor.com. Also a bit about the era of the Facebook birthday and monetizing relationships.




Transcript
00:01.71
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

00:13.45
jeffekennedy
Fabulous today is Thursday August Twenty fifth and I’m back home and another year older ah wiser hard to say. After a certain point. Do you continue to grow wiser? I don’t know ah during my brief very brief right? Podcast hiatus ah Zencaster changed their thing and now my image is reversed. I don’t know if it’ll be reversed for you all on video. It’s a little disconcerting. It’s just that the flowers are on different sides of me than they used to be um I was trying to figure out if I can change it but um, who knows.

01:04.99
jeffekennedy
So I had a lovely birthday time spent well with family mixture of business and Pleasure. We got um birthday stuff done and also took care of like financial things and stuff like that. So It was good. It was good trip. And I am home. Something’s rustling on the grape leaves.

01:32.88
jeffekennedy
Ah, bird. Um, yeah, so I’ll be here today and tomorrow and then tomorrow I go down to Albuquerque to Bubonicon if you are local to New Mexico which I know most most of you are not It’s a good convention. Sort of our local sff convention and I am going to be doing many many things I will be on a bunch of stuff I was cki I was talking about this before I left. But um, you know it used to be that I would post mice. Appearances and schedule at conferences online and now I’ve kind of it’s like well why because the people online who aren’t there can’t go see the things and the people who are going to the thing will see it when they’re there. So. I see other authors showing this on social media and I know I used to do it. But it’s um, it’s a puzzler I just keep getting around not to posting my stuff and maybe that’s an excuse. So um. And then after that I will be doing podcasts on Monday Tuesday and then Wednesday I fly to Chicago for worldcon – ChiCon – in Chicago did I mention Chicago at which I’m also doing many things I should.

03:03.57
jeffekennedy
Probably post my schedule for that just because worldcon’s so big. But anyway, um, yeah, so little behind on the book stuff not horribly actually I’m I’m on track I’m not where I want to be but. On track still to release September Twenty Ninth nice to see all those preorders coming in. Thank you. SHADOW WIZARD, Jadren and Selly. ah so let’s see so I have. Things to talk about and it’s one of those things where I make notes I want to talk about this when I come back. But then ah you know after the fact I’m not nearly so fired up about it. Um, but so 1 thing about birthdays in the modern era. Is the Facebook birthday right? So it’s a funny thing because this is really throwing me off that my image was reversed I really just shouldn’t look at myself I did get a new webcam. Ah, for my birthday from my wonderful aunt and I started to try to set it up but I can’t if I have the laptop open it defaults to my laptop camera instead of the one on the tripod and I’m sure I can change that somewhere.

04:35.35
jeffekennedy
And my settings Zencaster settings by can’t figure it out. Ah and I thought well I could just like use the webcam and not look at myself which might be a plus. So I’d stop obsessing and but then I wouldn’t be able to see that the image was right. So I may save the webcam for indoors. That’s all, um, probably never mind but that’s that was sort of my process. This morning is figuring out how I’m gonna handle all that. So anyway, Facebook birthdays. Um, and you know I should have my cane out so I could shake it you know because back before Facebook it wasn’t a thing right? You know you had keep track of people’s birthdays and like I don’t know send cards through the mail via pony express um, but now. And it was fun at first with Facebook because it would remind you of people’s birthdays and you’d be like oh cool tell people happy birthday and then the social media marketers got involved right? and so they tell people things like um, you know every. Time you post to somebody’s timeline is an opportunity to advertise your business and ah, it’s like who do I want to say this that sorts of profanities are welling up.

06:06.17
jeffekennedy
You know it it really cancels out the ah you know purported good wishes if somebody is using it as an opportunity to advertise their business so there is this one gal. Who I went to high school with and I don’t even think we were friends in high school which is the other phenomenon about Facebook right? is that there’s all these people that you are friends with on Facebook that you are never friends with in real life. So this girl is a real estate agent and she posts to my timeline with this square ad that has like a picture of her and a picture of her. You know, sister agent at at the business and. You know it’s like the realty company and and they say wishing you a happy birthday and it’s basically a fucking ad for their real estate company on my timeline dressed up as happy birthday wishes and so I deleted it and and you know what. I deleted that in the morning because I was online for my birthday which I’m not always, but you know hanging out my folks’ house because it was a Monday ah, my mom and I you know had ah to meet with her financial advisor via Zoom so we were online a lot.

07:35.25
jeffekennedy
And so I was just keeping up with the Facebook messages this year because I do appreciate all the the nice birthdays from the people who are just trying to advertise their business. So so. I deleted this fairly early in the morning because she posted it right off. Do you know what later that day like actually let me take it back Tuesday morning Tuesday morning I so was catch you know there all the people are like oh sorry I miss to birthday yesterday perfectly. Nice she posted that fucking thing again. Like the evening before and it’s I don’t know if she thought that she you know she went to check to see if it was on my timeline and she was like oh um, maybe it didn’t post or something but I deleted it a second time and then I went and looked at our friendship and our entire. Friendship and I’m putting air quotes around this for you not on video consisted of her posting her fucking real estate ads on my birthday and did I I didn’t unfriend her because we have other like high school friends in common. But yeah.

08:56.10
jeffekennedy
So You know and other people there. There’s only a few people who do this but you know if you’re gonna listen to the marketers think about what you’re doing to your human relationships. Ah actually. Do. We even have a human relationship I don’t I barely remember the scale I should go look her up in my yearbook because I don’t think we were like even I don’t think we ever had a relationship I should unfriend. Her shouldn’t I ah.

09:30.23
jeffekennedy
So I wanted to mention that um the you know monetizing every relationship right? Yeah, um, the other thing I wanted to talk about which I’ll probably put in the show notes billings. And will probably be the thing that most of you are actually here for and like sat through 10 minutes of my blathering to hear about but um, esel ho did an interesting essay on tor.com about clear own workshops and. Ah, science fiction and fantasy writing workshops and writing workshops in general and I wanted to talk about that a little little bit because there’s been a lot of people tweeting about it giving their experiences. Um, there was a lot of discussion of the Milford method and it. This was a really well done essay and it elicited a lot of ah good conversation and you know it’s writing workshops are fraught anyway and i. Hold on him. Um, okay so I I went to check. It’s S.L. Huang which I’m glad I checked ah because she is pretty emphatic about don’t pronounce it to rhyme with bang rhymes with wrong. So SL Huang she does not give um pronouns which is what I was looking for.

10:58.99
jeffekennedy
And ah, but she presents as female. So I’m gonna go with she/her apologies if I get that wrong anyway, um so she talks about the the background of. Science fiction and fantasy workshops and the Milford method and basically the milford method excuse me mosquitoes ah boils down to that people give critique and the author listens and gets an opportunity to say something at the end. And 1 of the criticisms of this technique that Huang brings up is that it’s um, it silences the author and that it can be a really brutal critique method and also how there were.

11:54.41
jeffekennedy
There’s sort of a dearth of other ways to teach and I’m getting a link to the essay because she does a great job of breaking it down much better than my brief summary broken summary here. Ah but 1 thing I did want to say is that. There is a reason for the author to listen without speaking um and I totally get the how it’s problematic I understand how what makes it difficult but something that happens a lot when you give author’s critique. A so. I want to say not even newbie authors I was starting to say that but um, authors even very experienced authors will do. This is that their first instinct is to begin to argue with you and it stops them from hearing what you’re trying to say or they try to explain. Um, and this is something that happens a lot. You know if I’m teaching writing workshops and so forth I’ll ask someone a question about their story I’ll say well you know think about why did the prince want to sacrifice himself and. Their first instinct will be to say oh well see the thing is is that the princess and and I have to say no no, no, don’t explain it to me because I don’t need to know explain it to the reader. What I’m saying is explain it in the work and so i.

13:23.35
jeffekennedy
So I think that there’s a lot of value in learning to hear critique of your work and absorb it without having to have an immediate response and something we talk about a whole lot in the industry is like when you get your. Edit letter back or what have you that you take 24 hours or more to absorb it and assimilate because our first reactions tend to be emotional and that’s um, you know which is usually you know like how dare you say my baby is ugly.

14:01.18
jeffekennedy
And believe me, we all go through this so it’s hard to hear criticism of your work and but so so so absorbing it in silence is a really good discipline to build and I am not. From a marginalized group. You know cis-het white girl here. So I I don’t know how it feels when um, it feels as if you’re being silenced so I realize that’s a fine line there but I did want to mention that about The. The benefits of simply listening um and you don’t have to you don’t have to yeah what are the words I want words what are words? Um, you don’t you don’t have to do what they say and I realize that this becomes an issue for people in marginalized groups too because. There’s that power imbalance and it’s very hard I think for all creators to learn that difference between hearing the critique and making the decision of what to do about it. But it’s good to hear it. It’s good to do your best to Listen. And take it in and then decide later whether or not, you’re gonna listen so all of that said my opinion on writing workshops I have done a few mostly ah through the University where I was at when I was working and.

15:39.89
jeffekennedy
Feel like I’m not going to have time to explain all this I may have to go along so okay, quick quick intro to to Jeffe’s history I was going to be a research scientist I was doing my PhD um I decided to cut bait get my masters because I didn’t actually want to be a research scientist and I decided that i. Wanted to be a writer. Um, it was big pivot I was 23 22 when this happened and so I did that I got my masters in neurophysiology I started taking I got a job as an editor writer to start building my writing chops. And I started taking night classes with the creative writing department and learning from these visiting writers. Usually it would be like these 5 nights a week seven to 10 pm for one week. There were other ones. But. I would do that sometimes they were semester long. But so I started learning directly from writers and it was actually an english department and then later they developed a creative writing program and I was able to do some great things I was awarded a. Fellowship to the Ucross foundation and went and did a two week retreat and that was amazing but I did not get a formal education and at one point the university where I was at they.

17:12.29
jeffekennedy
Did develop a creative writing program and they started a creative writing MFA and one of my professors suggested that I be in the first class and get an MFA now. At this point I had already been published I had already published. Um.

17:30.88
jeffekennedy
My essay collection was a university press and I published lots and lots of essays short stories and I thought oh cool. Yeah maybe I should get an MFA and so I looked into it and it was going to cost me like $40000 and and that was you know going to be right there in my hometown. I had a full time career job I had stepchildren I had a lot of stuff going on in my life and it was kind of as much as I could do to get the writing in and you know and she said well this would be a big boost for you if you have the Mfa and I was thinking. Well how why does it make a difference. Um, and I ultimately did not do it because I thought I already have 1 master’s degree and I don’t want to teach so why do I need an MFA when I’m already a published author and isn’t that my cred. Well. You know and it’s interesting because here I am now I am president of the science fiction and fantasy writers association and I have not done those um cred workshops I came up partly through romance because romance is what. Published my funky crossover of epic fantasy romance first. So I never went to Clarion I never went to Taos toolbox I didn’t go to ah Iowa writing circle or any of these things and I’ve been part of.

19:06.60
jeffekennedy
These courses where we had writing workshops where we workshopped work I’ve been part of several different critique groups and what I say it makes a difference. Yeah, everything is helpful. But. When people talk about and this is something that as heil huang mentions in her essay is that there is this and I had not heard of it before but it didn’t surprise me. That there’s there’s this rather famous rebound that after you do Clarion and workshop a lot of people don’t write for a year or 2 years and and Mary Robinette Kowal who you know is a friend and I think she’s very smart and I I adore her. But she did a Twitter thread saying well that’s because you’re absorbing everything you learned and it just takes time to assimilate that and and that was her experience and I believe that that’s how she felt but I also think that. People not writing for a couple of years after our workshop is an indication that something got broken and I don’t think necessarily in a positive way I quit one critique group because the critique felt so toxic to me and.

20:31.88
jeffekennedy
And when I give authors advice on this because I do do author coaching um I have a lot of conversation with authors and this is something that comes up a lot is they say well. How do I know this is looping back right. How do I know when to listen to the critique or when is it toxic and it’s hard. It’s really hard to know and the best answer I have is that you learn from experience. You have to you know you know, sit on it and then see if you agree with it. If um, if you’re hearing the same thing over and over that’s an indication that it’s something to pay attention to doesn’t mean you have to do it. Ah, especially if you’re a different kind of writer if you come from a different culture. A non-western non-white. And know non heteronormative culture. There’s gonna be differences for me. There were a lot of differences because I was writing this crossover I was writing this epic fantasy with romance in it and I would get people wanting me to take 1 side or the other out of it. Um. Men male fantasy writers science fiction writers that critique group I was in um, they would have to keep telling me that they were not my reader and and and they would kind of clear their throats self importantly, well I am not your reader but you know and they would acknowledge I was a great writer.

22:07.37
jeffekennedy
Great. Well, they would say I was a good writer. You know that it was a good story and they’d say but people have these very long exchanges is that typical for romance you know? and so all these little barbs right? They lodge into you and they can interfere with your creative process and 1 thing I talk about a whole lot is. Learning how to kick the other voices out of the room when you’re actually drafting and so I know this is a muddle I probably should have made this a much more um plant podcast. But so it goes maybe I’ll talk about this more tomorrow but it’s bothered me for a very long time. That um, that especially the science fiction and fantasy community seems to be very consumed with this cred about whether or not you have done these writing workshops. Ah when I was early on the board of SFWA and I was at. My first Nebula conference I think I was one of the other board members introduced me to someone who was working with Clarion and I don’t remember if it was east or west and I don’t remember who it was but we were doing cocktail party conversation and at this point I had probably published I don’t know. Ten fifteen books and but I wasn’t really well known in the science fiction fantasy community because a lot of those were on the romance side of publishing and she I said to her. Well you know I always thought it would be very fun to do something like Clarion and she said oh well, you know.

23:42.73
jeffekennedy
It’s never too late and and then she wandered off and my friend, the other Board member looked at me and he said she doesn’t really know who you are and I was like well you know and that’s all right, but there is this incestuous. And this is something that’s been talked about in other circles like I started out as a creative nonfiction writer and you know I would do like the literary festivals and all this kind of thing and I knew a lot of people who had come out of like Iowa writing circle. And it’s this deal where you go to Iowa writing circle there’s that faculty. Um, you have your fellow students that become your cohort and then you move up into the world of like choosing fellowships and editing and so forth. And they would choose other people from Iowa writing circle and so it becomes this loop where a certain kind of writing that is produced by a certain kind of writing workshop becomes established as this is good writing this is how we should be doing it. And then you have um, it perpetuates it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle and I think that that’s what happens in the science fiction and fantasy community too that the people who go to these workshops are taught this is how you write a correct story.

25:12.11
jeffekennedy
And then as they move into the gatekeeper positions. They reinforce that and say oh well, this is how you write a story and this is good kind and this is not a good kind because this would never fly in clarion workshop. Or for example, so as I promised I have gone on long. All of this has to be taken with a grain of salt because basically there are these self-reinforcing communities that are vetting each other and it there’s tremendous pressure I think um. And I I think I started to say this before and didn’t quite finish the thought but sometimes when I’m author coaching people will ask me should I do should I do Taos Toolbox should I do one of these other things and and I will say I don’t think you need it to learn how to write. Um, but it is good for the credit. It gets you into the community and which I feel like is that a good thing and I say this as someone who does not have the card right? so. On that thought I am going to go do my thing but thank you for sticking with me and my rambles this morning. Maybe I’ll be able to speak more more coherently about it tomorrow. Ah yeah, so um, hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and I will talk to you tomorrow.

26:46.83
jeffekennedy
You all take care bye-bye.

Do You Need a Critique Group – Or Something ELSE?

Yesterday I cooked brunch for writer friends Jim Sorenson and Sage Walker. (That’s me in my Orchid Throne apron that the amazingly talented Minerva Spencer made for me. Isn’t it awesome??)

We sat in the grape arbor, listened to the bluebirds feed their nestlings, and talked all things writing. It got me thinking about critique and what we need to improve our work that ISN’T critique. Come on over to the SFF Seven for more. 

First Cup of Coffee – June 7, 2019

If you’ve been waiting for the second Sorcerous Moons compendium, books 4-6, it’s out! Also talking about reviews and why authors shouldn’t try to improve craft by reading them. And updates on my broken contact lens.