another thing worth reading on the intarweb
Here, seated at a long table and looking disarmingly friendly, Steven Popkes, James Cambias, F. Brett Cox, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link, and Vandana Singh tore apart a new story by James Patrick Kelly. The ostensible purpose was to demonstrate how the Cambridge (Mass.) Writers' Workshop actually functions, because the workshops are usually private and for invited writers only, so the public does not get to witness the carnage. Each writer had read the story and written comments. Theodora Goss began, saying, "You know I like your writing, Jim, but this particular story seemed to me to have a lot of problems. I think it's really two stories, neither of which you've actually written, and one of which is really boring and cliched." And so it continued, with each respondent diving deeper and deeper into the marrow of the tale, surfacing to spit out chunks of flesh and word.
I am proud of the fact that I didn't cackle once. You see, I've lived through many workshops, some of which were far more brutalizing than what the Cambridge folks did to Jim Kelly, and Jim himself has offered me excellent and incisive criticism in the past. But I've never had the chance to see someone who is an accomplished, experienced, multiple-award-winning writer have his work torn apart and put back together again so thoroughly. It was better than professional wrestling, better than monster trucks.
Reading about other people's critiques is fun.