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Writers converging on Whistler

Whistler’s 7th annual lit-fest, the Whistler Readers & Writers Festival, is set to take place Sept. 12-13, 2008.

Whistler’s 7th annual lit-fest, the Whistler Readers & Writers Festival, is set to take place Sept. 12-13, 2008. With 15 different seminars, sessions, workshops and readings available to select from, the biggest challenge for aspiring, emerging, devoted or lapsed writers is choosing between sessions on live wrestling, story-wrangling, or Techniques of the Inquisition. Streams on fiction writing, non-fiction and magazine writing, as well as memoir and writing from life are programmed, with guest writers including Wayne Grady, William Deverell, Nancy Warren, Shaena Lambert, Leslie Anthony, Susan Reifer, Candas Jane Dorsey, Mel Hurtig and Rebecca Wood Barrett,  For more information, visit and download the festival program. Tickets are available online at , and start from $20.

This week, local children’s writer Sara Leach takes a look at the value of workshops and writing festivals. Leach, a teacher and founding member of the Whistler Writers Group, will team up with fellow scribe Pam Barnsley to facilitate two sessions on Saturday, Sept. 13 at the festival. Feedback Blitz: How to Give and Receive Feedback , will take place Saturday at 4 p.m. Saturday morning will kick off with free drop-in class at 8:30 a.m., Top 10 Tips to Crank Up Your Writing, a host of exercises geared at getting hands moving across the page.



The importance of the critique

Constructive feedback critical to writing


By Sara Leach

You’ve completed writing your novel. It’s as good as you can make it. What next? If you’re looking to get your work published, it’s time to let your baby out into the big scary world. So you send it out to Publisher X or Agent Y, right? Not so fast. First, let another reader see it. But not just anyone.

A good husband never says your jeans make you look fat. A good girlfriend tells you the straight up truth. The same is true of writing. Our family members want us to succeed and feel good about ourselves. They don’t always give us an unbiased opinion of our work. This is where a good critique group comes in. A critique group is a group of writers who come together to share and comment on each other’s work. While it is the job of family members to extol the virtues of your writing, no matter how much work it might still need, a good critique group offers constructive feedback about your writing, while keeping your self-esteem intact.

The number and format of a critique group can take many variations. I have been a member of critique groups ranging from two members to a hundred, groups that “met” online every week, and others that met every three weeks in the leader’s living room.

My writing has improved through receiving critiques, critiquing other writers’ work, and listening to the feedback given to other writers. We also share resources — tips we’ve learned from writing workshops, good books on writing, examples from great fiction, and tips on getting published.

What I like best about my current group is the professionalism and hard work everyone puts into giving feedback. Everyone in the group loves writing, and wants each other to succeed. Giving — and receiving — feedback takes practice. It is important to let the writer know specific areas that need work without making the writer feel attacked. Writers receiving feedback need to learn to listen and be ready to make changes — otherwise why bother bringing your work in the first place?

On Sept. 13 at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Pam Barnsley and I will share some of the tips about giving feedback that we’ve been lucky enough to learn through our critique group. In Feedback Blitz – How to Give and Receive Feedback, we’ll discuss tips for what to look for when giving feedback and how to receive feedback and use it (or not) in your revision. We’ll also give tips on how to create a critique group, and will be available to help any interested writers get started with creating one.

Writers coming to the session are encouraged to bring a short piece of writing — up to two pages — in order for us to practise giving and receiving feedback in a friendly atmosphere. If you don’t have anything ready for critique that’s okay, come and practise giving feedback.

One of the goals of the Vicious Circle is to be an umbrella organization to support smaller critique groups. We now have one working critique group and are working with a few interested people to start a second group. We hope that any writers out there interested in joining a critique group will attend the Feedback Blitz session.

How do you know if you’re ready to be part of a critique group? All you need is to be willing to work at your writing and to spend time giving honest feedback to the other members of your group. Writing is a learning process that never ends. By learning to give and receive feedback you’ll be tuned in to areas in which your writing can grow that you might never have seen otherwise, and soon you’ll have that piece polished and ready to send to your favourite publisher.

Feedback Blitz – How to Give and Receive Feedback is just one of 15 events offered at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Sept. 12-13. To register visit


Sara Leach writes fiction for children. She will be offering two sessions at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival: Feedback Blitz and Top 10 Tips to Crank Up Your Writing.