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June 24, 2014 / Angela Sylvia

Having a Critique Partner is the Best

In high school, I wrote constantly. So did my best friend. We shared our work with each other and offered opinions, mostly compliments (we were teenagers, our egos were so fragile). We even took the one creative writing class our high school ever offered (at least while we were there) together. We encouraged each other, and while I probably would have kept writing without her, I do attribute some of the confidence I as I kept pursuing it to those sessions in her room where she read my scribbled handwriting while I nervously snuggled her rat.

They made pretty good critique buddies, to be honest.

Once college started I didn’t see my high school friend as much, and Facebook wasn’t a thing yet. I received plenty of comments and assistance from classmates in my creative writing courses and from professors, who at the time helped me grow and also figure out what I really wanted to be writing. But I had no dedicated friend to share these things with, so after I lost the structure of school I was on my own. I operated within a vacuum, which I can say is a horrible place to write. Though I completed a novel, and edited it, and sent it out, it wasn’t working, and I couldn’t figure out the why.

Sick of being stuck, I applied to grad schools, finally ending up in Lesley. It was great: finally, a community of writing friends, mentors, people who got it and could help me out. But greatest of all was when I found the person who, from the moment we read each other’s manuscripts in preparation for the residency, became my best writing friend*. We connected with each other’s writing more than the other manuscripts we read, and it only took until the end of that first half of a day before I felt like I could put my book baby in her hands and trust her not to mangle it up but to carefully inspect it, to help it grow, to love it. We’ve both graduated, but we email, text, Facebook, Skype, share recommendations and worries and, most importantly, manuscripts. When I made sudden edits to a story and needed feedback she was right there, ready to do it. And when she needed help of her own, I was on her list of people to send her beloved novel to.

Basically, I have a person who I know will do her best to help me out and give me honest feedback — praise along with criticism — when I need it, and I have the privilege of being the same person for her. And it’s great.

 

 

*She also owns rats, who I have met and snuggled with. So, maybe that’s a sign.

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5 Comments

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  1. Dawne Webber / Jun 24 2014 10:37 am

    I’m blessed to have someone like that as well. The thing is she doesn’t write at this point; she’s too busy with her growing family. But she is wonderful with my work. Sometimes I feel a little guilty because I can’t reciprocate for her.

    • Angela Sylvia / Jun 25 2014 6:48 am

      Thanks for the comment!

      I feel guilty a lot, too. I feel like I throw material at this friend more often than she does to me, so I’m always so happy when she has something for me to look at.

  2. Rachel Heston-Davis / Jul 23 2014 9:38 am

    :`) You’re gonna make me cry!

    It has been splendid having a best writing friend. I was thinking the other day how lucky we were to find each other right from the get-go at the first residency, because we really did a lot of guidance and support for each other…more than I even realized at the time.

    For those who don’t know the story, our first residency at the MFA program, we had literally every class together all day long. We were also delighted to discover that we were rooming at the same bed and breakfast….and, we discovered when we got back that night, on the same floor….and, whoa, the same hallway?…..and actually next door to each other :)

    • Angela Sylvia / Jul 23 2014 12:36 pm

      Oh man, that was the best day. I just remember that quick look of “why is she being such a creeper” as I followed you down the hall to your corner room… Fate.

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