Last week, I was having lunch with an acquaintance and she asked how my reading group was going. I said that my writing group was just fine and that, in fact, we were about to have our public reading. I mentioned that it was at the public library and was debating about whether or not to stick my neck out and actually invite her when she asked what the heck a public reading was. “So you read out loud and people critique you?”

She sounded more like she was making conversation rather than really asking, and when I tried to explain it, she didn’t seem all that excited, so I swallowed my invite.

Shy and already dreading the reading this week’s reading, that exchange bruised my ego a bit.  But now I’m wondering, do people actually know what goes on in a writing group? Are public readings mysterious? Since I know what they are, I assume everyone else does…including you. I’ve ranted, crowed, confessed to writing ADD and grumbled bitterly.

A public reading is really rather self explanatory: we reading publicly. Of course, it’s a little more involved than that. For my writer’s group’s public reading, we’re reading (out loud for the world to hear) sections, completed stories or poems that went through the review process. No critiquing will be involved. Well, in front of us at any rate. Who knows what people say when they leave.

Generally, the critiquing happens within the group itself. During our meetings a person other than the writer reads the piece aloud. This lets the writer focus on the words they’ve written rather than worrying about reading them correctly. Commenting begins with what reader/listeners liked, as well as memorable scenes, phrases and characters. Next, we get into what people were confused about, when didn’t sit well with them and what they had questions on. All comments are about the writing and not the writer. Hearing so many different points of view helps a writer see if they’ve gotten their point across and see where they might have fallen down on the job.

And those are the subtle differences between a writing group and a public reading. Questions?


One thought on “Glossary

  1. Emily

    Makes sense to me. The differences, that is, and they do seem to be rather self-explanatory. But, I was a creative writing major at SCAPA. I’ve done the peer review and public [ish] reading thing before.

    Good luck!

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