That pretty much summed up class. We have come to the point where it has dawned on my students that the true value of the class is in the last hour of instructor/peer critique. In fact, I'm certain they figured it out because the ones who had never volunteered previously all asked me suddenly if there was a way to slip them in to the schedule (now that we're literally at the half way point). And, the answer is, of course, yes: I will lecture less and we will critique more.
My insights into writing are just that: mine. And we all know that there are as many ways to write properly as there are writers writing.
It's so much more valuable to have people talking to you, directly, about your work and helping you do what it is you're trying to do. So much more. I'm super glad they all twigged to that. Of course, if anything, this means I'm going to be working HARDER--because critique is time consuming when done as instruction. But, I think the students are all going to come away very satisfied and feeling like class was time (and money) was well spent.
So, yay. And they all behaved admirably again too. Only once did I need to say, "Okay, but you need to say something you liked about the piece. It's part of the structure of how we do critique and one of the rules."
The problem wasn't that there weren't nice things to say to the student being critiqued last time, as I told him after class, the problem was that his prose was at such a high level that it became invisible to the reader. They fell, head first, into his story, and so they wanted to nitpick the EVENTS of the story, and had a hard time remembering that the amazing thing was that the story captured them SO PROFOUNDLY (even as they ran up against things they didn't like.) Adorably, he looked at me and asked, "So I don't suck?" I was like, "Oh, honey, no. So much no. You're writing at at a professional level." He blinked, "You mean it? I could sell this?" I said, "Yes, some day, you WILL."
I don't say this lightly. I have been wrong, of course. But, I've also been right.
Speaking of being wrong, I really didn't expect to enjoy Jeff VanderMeer's ANNIHILATION as much as I did. As I was telling Mason, it kind of reads like Myst come to life...only weirder. Normally, I'd have told you that this book reminds me of some of those trippy movies where it turns out in the end that the "hero" is a psych ward patient, but a) that's not at ALL what happens and b) while it does have that style, which I normally don't like at all, coming off PEOPLE IN THE TREES (which I hated), I found this really awesome, refreshing, and clever.
As an aside, I've noticed that women writers rarely forget women's periods, but men, even ones writing in a female p.o.v., always do. There was actually no reason for the author of THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES who was writing a faux memoir from a guy's point of view to ever mention the one female explorer's period, but she finds a way. Our doctor "hero" manages to come across the female explorer's unburied, bloodied feminine supplies and is horrified by the fact that they're just laying there, destroying the pristine jungle's greenness with their awful white and blood-red. He doesn't much like her anyway, but this kind of seals the deal.
Meanwhile, though, TBF, it's only a matter of weeks that the events of ANNIHILATION takes place in, our heroine, never even worries about what she'll do when that time comes. She doesn't even think about what supplies she might need, even though she's in the middle of an (alien) wilderness. Despite the fact, also, that the entire crew is female, periods never come up. Which only struck me because there is, in fact, a lot of discussion about supplies. A similar packing-for-a-possibly-suicidal-
To be complete, periods never once came up in MEMORY OF WATER or Cherie Priest's MAPLECROFT DISPATCHES. So, it's not all women, all the time... and I'm certainly not implying that *not* mentioning a women's period is some kind of sin of omission. Certainly, I don't think about mine all the time (and I'd rather not think about yours, thank you very much, especially when there's something more interesting to talk about... which is pretty much anything.) But, I don't know. I guess I might expect it to come up when planning a trip or thinking about surviving in an unknown wilderness where there are no pharmacies to restock from... and maybe if these other women hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't notice when it's not there.
It certainly isn't this important, but I will tell you I'll be looking for it other places, gods help me. :-)