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April 29, 2013

Critical Thinking

critiquingToday I took part in a critiquing workshop for writers of children’s books. It was the first time that I had participated in any sort of group critique. I had no idea what to expect and I found it quite fascinating.

I’m sure that there are many different approaches to critique groups, and you may have had your own experiences. In this one, we allotted an equal amount of time to discussing each author’s work. We spent a little less than one half of this time discussing things that we liked about the piece. Some of the second half was spent on things we thought needed improvement. The author was not expected to participate during these sessions. She (only women were present) then given the remaining time to address issues that had been raised and to ask questions.

I submitted the first few chapters of Book 4 of the Caribbean Adventure Series, Fury on Soufriere Hills. I was particularly interested in seeing how an American audience would perceive and understand the book, so firmly set in the Caribbean. I received a very positive response from the group. Interestingly enough, those positive comments will help me to strengthen the book just as much as the negative comments. For example, one reader said that she looked forward to reading more about Chee Chee’s antics, the mischievous monkey at the center of the story. This made me realise that I needed to further reinforce his role in the story.

I found it very difficult to keep quiet as the readers discussed a particular area of the story that one lady did not follow. It was a section that I had wrestled with quite a bit and the discussion made me realise that I had not yet conquered that beast. Another lady had difficulty believing a bit of the action and I was very happy that I did not interject as another participant used her experiences climbing the Peruvian mountain, Machu Picchu to explain why the scene might seem confusing. Both ladies gave invaluable insight into how the scene could be perceived negatively and how I could solve the issue.

All in all it was a very civilised and extremely helpful afternoon. I hope that I made helpful contributions to the other authors. Perhaps I was fortunate in being thrown into a group that worked well, at least on this occasion, but it is something I would definitely try again and recommend to others who have not tried it.

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