What is the purpose of Roundtables?

Roundtables are designed to help writers develop skills and build a network of writing colleagues. We learn both from hearing others’ reactions to our own writing as well as providing feedback and listening to the comments of others.  Please come with an open mind and a generous “we’re in this together” spirit.

LOGISTICS

How much work will be critiqued each time?

In general, groups can manage up to 2,000 – 2,500 words per writer, per meeting time. (This is 8 – 10 double spaced pages in 12-pt Times New Roman font. Word count may need to be adjusted depending upon the size of the group.) Leaders do their best to complete all pieces in one meeting. In the rare instance that a piece needs to be carried over until the next meeting, that writer will go first the next time.

How many copies will I need to bring?

You will need one manuscript for each person at the table (including the leader). Please let your leader know if you will be UNable to make it to Roundtable, so s/he can let the other participants know how many copies to bring.

What if I don’t have any writing to share?

Even if you don’t have work to share, do still attend. There is much to be gained from giving and listening to others’ feedback.

What about outside writing help from my Roundtable leader?

In addition to the many hats our Roundtable leaders wear in their “other” lives, they are writers themselves. As such, it is important to respect their creative time outside of their Roundtable responsibilities. If you feel you need one-on-one help outside the group, ask them for suggestions for freelance editors, writing coaches or classes.

What about weather cancellations?

Roundtables are rarely cancelled–if in doubt, check the website. We will post cancellations at least 2 hours prior to the beginning of the Roundtable. Since weather conditions can vary widely, however, use your own judgment before setting out. Safety first.

GIVING FEEDBACK

When it is your turn, pass out your copies and state what you will be reading. (e.g. This is the beginning of a short story. I’ve brought three poems. This is from the middle of my novel. ) Please no apologies or backstory/context unless the leader asks for it. You want the feedback to be based upon the words on the page, not your explanation or introduction of them.

You will then read the work aloud with a minimum of “drama” (again, so the words can stand for themselves) while the others jot their reactions along the way.

When you finish, you can take a deep breath and enjoy the sound of pens scratching as people really focus on what they want to say to you about the writing.

The leader will facilitate a bit of conversation among the other participants about the work. Now is your time to listen and take notes, but this is not a time for you to engage the other participants. If something comes up which you would like to address with someone at the table, make a note of it and touch base with them during a break or after the Roundtable is over. Holding to this guideline helps to ensure that everyone’s work will be addressed in the allotted time.

How do I provide written feedback?

Giving feedback to other writers is a skill that improves with practice. You are not expected to be an editor or an expert, but a thoughtful reader who engages with the work. While listening, jot notes about aspects of the writing that are effective and areas that are confusing or seem to be inconsistent. Focus on craft rather than content. Don’t forget your role is to encourage, as well as to offer options for improvement.

How do I provide verbal feedback?

The leader will invite a few people to share their thoughts before returning the drafts to the writer. During verbal feedback time, LISTEN carefully to others’ comments so as not to repeat what has already been said. Try to balance positive comments with insights about what might be changed. Please do not ask the writer direct questions since this is his/her time to listen, not respond. No need to comment on things like grammar or usage (though it’s fine to fix them on the paper if you notice them). That comes later.

RECEIVING FEEDBACK

This is what it’s all about: learning how others have received your work–where your writing sings, where it confuses, where it has opportunities to be even stronger. Writers are hungry for the type of feedback you’ll get in the Roundtable, especially because we foster a strong sense of shared struggles and shared victories.

While you will receive feedback on various aspects of your work, you will not necessarily agree with all of it. It is important not to get defensive or respond directly to the person offering suggestions. Take the feedback in the spirit that it is offered and decide later what will best serve the writing. Ultimately, it is your work, and you know what you are trying to accomplish with it. That said, if there is wide agreement about an aspect of your writing, you’ll probably want to give that serious consideration.