The best thing getting a degree in creative writing did for me was help me learn how to process people’s opinions about my writing. The way UH handles its CW classes is thus: when your story is up for review, the prof and your classmates talk about your work, in front of you, and they pretend you aren’t in the room. You cannot say a word, even if someone is a total dumbass who missed the point entirely. The main reason for the no-speaking rule is because if it isn’t on the page, you didn’t get it right. You can’t be sitting on the couch next to each reader of your work, stopping them on page 127 to explain what you meant when you compared the guy’s head to a rotten cantaloupe. The secondary reason for no talking is because it’s a really tedious experience to listen to someone be defensive about their writing. Tedious and pointless. And tedious. I’m saying all of this to iterate the fact that I can deal with all sorts of opinions about my writing. While I prefer people to tell me I’m a life-altering genius, I find a sincere critique incredibly useful.
Yes, I’m going somewhere with this.
I’ve entered Please Remove This Stuffed Animal From My Head into a few one-act play contests. Trying to get a production out of it, and I’m also trying to get my work into other states. As a rule, I don’t enter contests that charge a fee. Because I work in a theatre, I understand why they charge, but I’m not going to go broke entering a 15-minute play in a bunch of random contests. I broke my rule recently for a theatre that charged $10 for entry. Decided to pay because they offered a critique if you included an SASE. I just got my critique in the mail.
Okay, first of all, the person who filled out the very simlistic evaluation form dotted each “i” with a circle. Not a dot. A circle. I’m assuming it was filled out by a woman because even the most nelly gay guy isn’t that queer. I’m sure she wears bedazzled sweatshirts and sleeps with teddy bears too. Probably had to hold back from putting hearts over each i since this was a somewhat professional form.
Second, calling this form a “critique” is being overly generous. The bulk of the information given is in the form of a 1 to 10 system, rating things such as originality and style. There are only a couple of phrases actually written out, and both are about the end of the play, which is very dark. She wrote “I didn’t like the ending, I’m sorry to say” under the plot development section. Sorry, but just saying you didn’t like something isn’t a critique. It’s an opinion, and it’s totally worthless. But then, as I look further down the sheet, I get a better sense of what she means. Under the advice for the playwright on improving this play section, she wrote “Does the ending have to be so grim?” Does the ending have to be so grim? Are you fucking kidding me? Of course it has to be so grim. That’s the entire point of the play! The grim ending is the money shot. I can’t end it with puppies and blow jobs for everyone. The story absolutely requires a grim ending. Period.
This chick should put on her kitten tee shirt and favorite stretchy pink pants and do some shopping in the latest Lillian Vernon catalogue and leave the evaluations to someone with a stronger stomach.