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Long Distance Writing Workshops

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Seton Hill University’s MFA program is low-residency. For most of the year, my work-shopping occurs via email with my critique partners and my mentor. There are pro’s and cons to this method. In this post, I’ll review both:

The Pro’s of Long Distance Work-shopping

  1. More time to critique. During in-person workshops, the critiques are given verbally, on-the-spot. Writing a critique beforehand gives me time to think about giving a thorough, constructive edit.
  2. Ability to give a manuscript different layers of edits. As a low residency grad student with a busy life, I can chunk down my critiques and address a manuscript at the macro- and micro- level.
  3. Did I mention time? The reason I chose a low-residency program was because of the time it would give me. I am not saddled with attending classes. As a mother, this means I don’t have to arrange for and pay for childcare in order to attend school. (Yeah, that’s not directly related to critiquing, but it matters to me.)

The Cons of Long Distance Work-shopping

  1. Inability to read first reactions to critiques.  Once I hit “send” on my critique, it’s done. I’m unable to read their reaction, and if they share their opinions of my critique, it may be watered down.
  2. The meaning/intent behind critiques becoming “lost in electronic translation” Work-shopping material via long distance means that I’m very careful about how I deliver my critiques. I give a thorough critique, yet I’m careful not to sound harmful in my delivery. Spats can occur, and I wouldn’t be able to discern disagreement unless my critique partner expressed it.
  3.  I have to wait until the next residency to see my critique partner. For me, part of the fun of working with other writers is the bond it creates. It can be tough forming those bonds via computer.

Overall, I prefer work-shopping material in this manner despite the downsides. As I said earlier, it affords me time which I wouldn’t be able to give in a full residency program. For this reason, I’m sticking with it.

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