Tag Archives: criticism


Into every Writer’s life, some critiquing must fall.

Fellow writers ask you for feedback, reviews, close reading, affirmation, whatever. And there you are, suddenly out on the end of a very thin branch, trying to determine how best to respond.
Sometimes you get lucky. The stories you are asked to read are well-written, need only a few tweaks, show promise. The requester genuinely wants feedback.

Sometimes you get regimented. The Canadian Authors Association has a great process for critiquing, following careful rules established over years to provide the most information with the least hurt. Everyone plays along and everyone learns.

And sometimes, you are stuck, gawping, at some really inescapably horrid writing, over which you spot the hopeful eyes of the writer, begging you to find something, anything, encouraging to say.
Some people can’t write. They do things like forget the noun-verb-noun basics of sentences. They write vignettes and call them stories (been guilty of that myself). They write chocolate-box stories so ridden with cliche the sugar hurts your teeth and you long for a Thomas Kinkaid painting to cut the ache.

And it never fails. These people are the ones who are most persuaded of their writing skills. They argue, get hurt, stomp off when you ever so gently suggest a rewrite…or they send you hateful emails when you review their self-published books and don’t give 4 stars…

There are only a few folks I trust with giving me feedback on my stories. I recently had yet another bad experience with a critique group and it reminded me of why I am so picky.

And it made me long for a group of kindred spirit writers to talk with.

Check out “Story is a State of Mind”, the intensive program, if you’d like some useful and encouraging feedback. The course, by Sarah Selecky, is one of the most useful ones I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot of courses. I’m going to miss it, now that I’m done. Great feedback, charmingly given. Just what a critique should be. I’ve taken notes, for the next time some soft writer heart asks for advice.

So I’m flighty, am I?


I’ve been told for some time that I’m a flighty gal, given to lack of commitment, flowing like the wind.  Lately, the noise is louder, now that I am thinking of moving far away, to the Maritimes, instead of being a good boring person and staying in one place. This is beginning to really get on my nerves. Being told you are flighty, at 52, kindof leaves you the vision of the White Queen, hair blown every which way, not able to make decisions or choose consciously, just buffeted by chance and one’s own stupidity.

They base their evaluation on 1. the fact I left a 23 year-long loveless marriage. 2. The fact I changed jobs often, not understanding that in my field I had to do so to advance, and that I managed such advance in a scant 9 years from temp worker to advanced management  – while finishing a degree and parenting in my spare time. 3. The fact I haven’t found my heart’s desire yet, and so keep searching. 4. The fact I’ve moved fairly frequently since I left my marriage, whereas my ex has stayed securely in the marital home.

I, on the other hand, think that staying in the same job for years and years and years is stagnating and boring, living in the same town for years is mind dulling, and staying in a marriage where all one can muster is a tired hello is death-dealing. To be fair, most of them agree, when it comes to their lives. They just don’t see it as valid for me.

I feel cranky and judged, by people who don’t walk in my shoes. I don’t judge them! I don’t say to them “Geez, you’ve lived here for how long? Wow.  How dull.” or “Don’t you have any imagination?” or “Geez, why’d you settle for him, or her, or that?” I know they find what makes them comfortable, as I must do.

I don’t rant at them about their need to put roots down, when I concentrate on the flowering. We all have different lives, different ways of approaching the challenges given us. My parents have been gone forever, it seems. My mum died 20 years ago, my dad 25.  Surely that has an effect. I was dealt a blow with a diagnosis of MS two years ago – that gives me a very real framework on which to pin my probable next years. Despite these things, and the healing from the hurt the marriage loss caused me, I think I haven’t done too badly for myself. I am generally cheerful, try to help where I can, support others when I remember – you know, like all of us.

So stop judging me, right when I am reaching a goal! Maybe, maybe, when I get to Nova Scotia, I may find out that it isn’t as perfect as I thought it would be. Maybe, after a few years, I’ll be ready for other challenges. I don’t know, though.  Every time I step into the Province, a singing starts in my veins. It may not be a perfect place, but it may be just right for me. For now.

Change = growth = change.


Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.
Carol Burnett
US actress & comedienne (1936 – )