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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go Set A Watchman--Put Away Your Claws and Take Out Your Editing Pencil--We're Inviting Harper Lee to Critique Group

So, I'm about to run over and get my copy of Go Set A Watchman. I'm so excited, and yet, I've been horrified by the responses so far, whether it's from the many readers who haven't yet read it--and swear they never will--or from the critics, like NPR, who called it "a mess." If I were Harper Lee I would feel vindicated that I decided not to publish until I could barely see or hear. The claws are out, baby.

When I was a kid, I was in a play created by The Greats. No matter what they did, the material's flaws were--and remain--unfixable. During rehearsals and previews and our brief run, I remember being shocked by the twisted delight I kept seeing on the faces of their most passionate fans as they leaned in, in the classic pose of a gossip, and say, "so, I hear it's awful." Being really young, I would ask them, "why are you so happy? Do you want them to fail?"  (Of course, they all denied it. Passionately. But immediately, the look would return, along with, "but I hear it's really awful."

So--lets change the dynamic. First lf all, let's acknowledge that this book, like To Kill A Mockingbird, belongs to Harper Lee, not to us.

Then let's read the novel for delight.

And after that, let's follow good critique group etiquette: first, what did you love and why? Second: what could be strengthened with suggestions as to how? Last--be kind to your fellow authors. If she were here, we'd want Nelle Lee to feel like a member of our community, not a target.

Anybody in?

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