Monday, August 8, 2011

Writers Intensive Panel: Making the Most of the Critique Experience

l to r: Aaron Hartler, Allyn Johnston, Alessandra Balzer, Jennifer Hunt

SCBWI's Aaron Hartzler moderates a panel of editors offering advice on critiques to a room full of writers awaiting them. Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane), Alessandra Balzer (Balzer & Bray), Jennifer Hunt (Dial) are the panelists.

Aaron asks about the anxiety that can come from critique situations.

Alessandra stresses that editors are on your side. Jennifer says that there is not a writer in the world who couldn't use some critique. Allyn confesses that editors are nervous too--it's pressure for them to have to deliver something helpful to writers on the spot.

Voice, characterization, dialog, pacing are the types of things that you'd see in an editorial letter and those are areas writers should be considering, Jennifer says. Those are the kinds of things that she listens for. With a short critique, she focuses on voice and characterization.

Alessandra stresses that, in group critiques, you listen to others, pick out the positive elements, and balance out the positive and negative when offering feedback. When you're taking feedback, again, listen and be open to the comments--they might not all be relative but they're all worth considering.

Jennifer says that is you're the person getting a critique, you shouldn't spend your time talking when you could spend your time listening. She also recommends after a critique meeting or group session, you think about your suggestions for a week before making changes so you have sufficient time to soak them in and consider them. She says that editors are your allies, and it's better to hear about something that doesn't work from an editor than later, down the line, in a revieiw. Editors are like the good friends who tell you, you have a beautiful smile, but there's some spinach in your teeth.


  1. It was so great to experience the round table critique format. May I say that Aaron chaired the panel expertly and Brenda B. supplied delicious cakes and coffee for her table (shhh!)

  2. At our table, our facilitator, Jesse Marie Klausmeier, was outstanding. I learned so much from this critique session. Great experience.