Tales from The Critique Wars or What Not to Do or You Might Tick Someone Off

As most you know I’m an old hand at the SCWW Conference. This is the fifth or sixth year I’ve worked the conference. This is the second year, in a row, that I’ve handled critiques.

Since the deadline for submitting your materials is LOOMING (September 1), I thought I’d take the time to highlight a few of the don’t and explain them.

1. Don’t send anything that requires my signature. It makes things really difficult when I’ve got fifty large envelopes in my hand and I have to take the little yellow slip from the box, stand in line, sign three times for the envelope and then add it to the pile and schlep it to my car. Standing in line at the post office is not how I want to spend my lunch hour, nor is it the way I want to spend time I could be writing. I have a complete list of attendees and I will know if I don’t get your materials. I will then email or call you and request that you send it. In addition, I confirm receipt of each hard copy and electronic copy. You will know when I get it. Please don’t make me stand in line.

2.  Don’t include report covers or any other type of binding in your hard copies. I just throw these away. It’s a waste of your money and a waste of energy and trees. The only thing that should be in your envelope is two copies of your submission, bound with rubber bands, paperclips or binder clips.

3.  Send ONLY what’s asked. If you bought a standard, send ONLY ten pages and the optional one page synopisis. Same deal with extended:  thirty pages and an optional one page synopisis. If you send more, I’ll have to contact you and request you send it again. For legal and contractual reasons, I cannot alter your submission in any way. That means I can’t delete a few pages from the version you sent me. I can’t just trash a couple of pages either. SEND a maximum of 11 pages or 31 pages.

4. Don’t put so much tape on the envelope that I have to get out an electric knife to open it. Small pieces of tape at the sealing flap will suffice. Again, if I get something that is torn, dogearred or otherwise damaged, I will give you the chance to resubmit.

5. Don’t try to play with spacing and margins to get more out of your critique. I’m a writer. I will notice this. In a 10K submission, 1.5 spacing will result in an additional seven or eight pages. Double-spaced means double-spaced. If you send it to me with wonky spacing, guess what?  I’ll request another copy. Same thing with margins. Keep them to 1″. Again, I’m a writer. I know the difference between a 1″ margin and 0.75 margin. Our agreements with faculty members are very specific. I can’t break my word to them. And what if everyone tried to cheat a bit?  You’re talking about hundred of additional pages.

Having said all that, FEAR NOT. If your package require a signature, I’ll sign. I have an electric knife. I will ask you to resubmit if your critique is single-spaced.

I know this sounds like nothing but a rant but here’s the take-away message: 


If you get into the habit now, you’ve got less to worry about in the future. Use me for practice. Please.

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