Sunday, February 14, 2010

Outtakes from the Legendary Cow Skulls

When the Cow Skulls first started meeting, almost six years ago, we were scrupulously faithful to the workshopping guidelines from Grub Street, where we all met. We started every meeting with a prompt and free-write, went around the table in turns offering a balance of positive comments and constructive criticism, didn't allow the author to speak until after everyone else had had a say.

Our meetings these days are much less structured and more collaborative—a kind of group therapy for prose. Ideas about a piece change over the course of the discussion, the author participates throughout, and the final take on an essay or story my be something none of us had thought of when reading it to prepare for the meeting. This improvisational aspect is energizing and valuable; it can, however, make for occasionally hilarious critiques. Notable quotes from a recent Wednesday night:

Cindy (to Julie): "I think this story is too long. Or else it's too short."

Julie (to me): "I love all the words in this essay, I just don't love it."

The best part of all is that these comments were actually both meaningful and quite helpful.

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