It struck me that the new conference attendees (newbies) were in for a wake up call. During a discussion of critiques, I noticed the smiles that could barely be contained, the sparkling eyes, the body language that screamed "the editors will LOVE my book and want to publish it tomorrow!". Then there were the rest of us who knew the reality of the critiques. We knew to wear alligator-like armor, push down their urge to say, "but you don't get it" to the critiquers and take it all with a grain (or bucket) of salt. But, these poor little newbies! Sigh. It made me start thinking about the etiquette of the critique. Could we have a kinder, gentler version for the new victims, I mean, attendees? Thus was born my list of guidelines for those giving the critiques.
1. Do not text or talk on your cell while in the midst of giving a critique.
2. Do not use foul f&^*(#@! language! Really, it's not appropriate.
3. You are NOT Miss Snark. Miss Snark works because she's not staring you in the face.
4. Do not wear inappropriate clothes. We do not want to see your cleavage no matter how impressive. Well, maybe a few of the guys do.
5. Do not try to impress us with your Meryl Streep imitation from The Devil Wears Prada. The sneering character eventually shows her softer side but the critiquee (new word) will never see that in fifteen minutes. It just makes you look mean.
6. While the world loves Simon Cowell, that show works because Paula is sitting next to him with the soft let-down. Bring out your inner-Paula along with those biting comments. OK, this is the same as number five but it needed to be repeated.
7. Don't tell everyone you want a full submission. Word gets out and then the writer's moment of elation fades as they realize EVERYONE had a full request.
8. Honesty is the best policy...just remember that the delivery can hurt. There are faces that I will never see again at a conference because the sting of a critiquer's words stopped them. At this point, editors and agents will ask the question, "Well, how's that MY fault?" You don't have to serve cupcakes with pink sugar crystals but you do have to remain professional.
9. Don't talk about the attendees of the conference with other professionals at the bar after conference hours are over. Guess what - all the attendees are hanging around like groupies listening to your every word. Believe me, I've seen the Twitter stalkers...they scare me.
10. Yes, everyone and their brother will ask you what the latest trends are. It's better to say, "I don't know" than make up strange crap. A paranormal romance with characters of ethnicity? If you receive that story and you love it, good for you. If you put the request out there, be ready for some weird stories to cross your desk.
Yes, these are true observations.
Never fear that I'm being blinded by bitterness. My career is what I make it - I take full responsibility. I also have learned to see the honesty in a good critique and remove myself from the emotional aspect of reviewing my writing.
I wrote this as a rant but also because I'm haunted by the newbies. No, I don't see dead people also. I just wanted to make my plea for everyone to be treated with respect and a dose of kindness. And yes, I think there should be milk and cookies and nap time again.