Episode 6: Workshops, Feedback, and Writer Communities

On August 18, 2018, Kasie welcomes Amber Wheeler-Bacon, SCWA Vice President and conference chairperson and Mary Sturgill, SCWA board member for publicity and social media into the studio to discuss writing workshops and communities. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Workshops, Feedback, and Writer Communities

Link to podcast


  • Who we are and why we’re here
  • A little bit about the SCWA
  • The topic for the week: Workshops, Feedback, and Writer Communities
  • Book discussion — currently reading
  • Craft book discussion — The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

Segment 1

From the website: “The South Carolina Writers Association is a literary arts non-profit organization offering a supportive environment for people to become better writers.”

  • Established in 1990
  • All types of writing and all types of writers
  • 16 Local Chapters

Purpose (according to bylaws):

The purpose of the South Carolina Writers Association shall be as follows:

(a) To develop, administer, and operate programs designed to foster and improve the writing talents of its Members and the literary arts communities of South Carolina.

(b) To provide a creative environment in which the Members can present on a regular basis manuscripts for critique by the Organization.

The Board’s mission/work is to …

How does the board operate/govern?

Get specific:

Amber is in the Surfside Chapter. Tell us about your chapter: the make-up, the procedures, the environment

Mary’s chapter is …

Segment 2

The reason I wanted to talk about Workshops, Feedback, and Community today is because the SCWA has been integral in those three areas for me. First, my local workshop, the Columbia II chapter that I’m in with Mike Long and Rex Hurst who have both been on this show with me. They keep regular meetings that keep me on a regular writing schedule. Second, the feedback is invaluable. I work hard on my drafts, but the revisions are way more important. Feedback at workshop is how I decide where to focus my revisions. Finally, community. The SCWA has events and conferences and the Petigru Review and the Carrie McCray contest, all of these things have helped me grow as a writer.

So let’s talk about the value of the workshop.

What has membership in your workshop done for your writing?

There are online writing communities, too. They can be very valuable. I belong to one that meets weekly on Tuesdays via twitter to talk craft and industry and all that.

Here’s a list of the Top 11 as ranked by New York Book Editors.

The only one I knew was NoNoWriMo. Are you familiar with that group?

That same article says writing groups are essential for:

  • Critiques
  • Support and encouragement
  • Reviews
  • Beta readers
  • Marketing (we built this show to market Bonnie and Mike and Rex)

Some writers shy away from critique groups. Let’s demystify them and talk about how to take criticism.

This article is 12 tips (don’t you know bloggers love lists)

And we won’t do them all, they can go to writeonsc.blog to get the link. But here are the best ones:

  1. Accept that you needcriticism.
  2. Ask two or three specific questions.
  3. Shut up. (just listen, don’t try to defend the work)
  4. Recognize “bad” feedback
  5. Recognize “good but painful” feedback

Then this other list of 10 ways to take feedback:

  1. Ignore purely personal attacks
  2. Look for common themes
  3. Wait before you respond
  4. Look for positives among the negatives
  5. Ask questions

Giving feedback can be prickly, too. You have to be sensitive to the writer’s needs and feelings. Some people take it easily and without flinching, others are more wary.

This article talks about ways to give feedback. It suggests a strategy of “respond, don’t judge” which is a good one. As in, don’t offer advice, just ask questions and maybe share some questions the writing generates for you.

Are you good at taking feedback?

Are you good at giving it?

Our online workshop, Wordsmith Studio, talked about feedback in our Tuesday chat. Go to Twitter and #wschat to see what we were saying about the process. We also shared a hilarious video in a series called “Bad Writing Advice” that has the person stabbing someone who gave negative feedback. It’s a cartoon. Hilarious.

Segment 3

What we’re reading

So this part we just name our books and talk a little bit about them: why we picked them up, what we’re learning, whether we’d recommend them.

Kasie – The Defiant Heir, it’s Book 2 in a YA fantasy series that’s meh.

Craft Book:

This month we’re taking on The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker.

This is a great examination of the seven basic plots and he makes a good argument that all novels can find themselves in one of these. This week, I’ll feature the Rags-to-Riches story since that’s a classic Writer Fantasy. Think JK Rowling and other authors who have “made it.”

The Rags-to-Riches plot is just what it sounds like, someone goes from having nothing to having it all and that can be physical or emotional, either way it’s a reversal of fortune. We’ve seen the riches-to-rags story work, too, but in that one the outcome while it may be “rags” literally, it’s still better for the protagonist. Except in some determinism novels like Sister Carrie, The Rise of Silas Lapham, and House of Sand and Fog. Determinism likes to say it doesn’t matter how hard you work, your life is predetermined to whatever — including ruin.

Segment 4

Let’s talk about the conference here — more than before — if we need to fill space. Who the faculty will be, what the registration entails, what you expect for attendance and all that jazz.

Mention the basics in the intro above but have more details ready for this segment if we need it.


One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s