‘Useful Critiquing’ by Heidi Greco

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Overall:
Respect – for the work, the time and thought that went into it, for the person who is sharing their inner, private thoughts.

Listening – and really hearing what the writer is saying, jotting a note or two while they are reading from their piece so you will be prepared to comment.

Comments are always about the work, the words – not the writer.

Focus points:
Offer a summary of what you think the piece says, what its message is. Listeners will not all necessarily have the same impression.

Be specific. Generalities such as “I really like that story” or, “I love that poem” are not very useful. Such comments are vague and don’t help the Presenter improve their piece. Instead, mention a line or two that revealed a truth, a phrase that made you feel part of the story told/ the truth revealed.

Identify an image from the piece that appeals to one of your senses. “I can see that old car, speckled in shocking orange rust.” “I can smell that nasty kitchen described as having the scent of burnt milk.”

Comment on the title. Explain how it set you up for the experience of the work – or, how it tricked you into expecting something else.

Actual ‘critique’ points:
Cite a word you didn’t understand, especially if it ‘stopped’ you from listening to the rest of the piece.

Cite a word or phrase that seems redundant or an idea that’s repeated unnecessarily.

Suggest a stronger/clearer word where you perceive a weak one (or one not in keeping with metaphor of the piece) is used.

– Heidi Greco

Heidi Greco is a poet, novelist, editor, an arts activist, and an occasional instructor. Her writings have appeared in books, magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States. In 2011, she won Ken Klonsky Award for her novella Shrinking Violets (Quattro, Toronto 2011).

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