Guidelines for Open Read – by Amy Rutten
Sierra Writers Open Read
Sierra Writers offers an “open read” several times a year to anyone interested in having their work read aloud and critiqued in a supportive, creative group environment. Work is read anonymously, by volunteer readers, and feedback is offered. The author will have the option to identify themselves after the piece has been discussed. We welcome all interested writers to attend, whether you are submitting work to be considered or not.
Please review the following guidelines:
- Bring a single copy of your piece, double-spaced, Times New Roman (or similar) font. Reading from electronic devices is not allowed.
- Limit your piece to 750 words (2 to 3 pages), double-spaced, or about 3 minutes, read aloud. If submitting poetry, no more than three short poems.
- Work should be anonymous. Please be sure author’s name or other identifying information is removed
- Work can be whole pieces or excerpts, poetry or prose. If it would help the group, please feel free to indicate the genre or tell us it is from a larger work. The piece will be critiqued on its own.
Please consider these suggestions for how to get the most out of the Open Read:
- Be an active listener. Take notes; be prepared to be specific with your comments.
- Begin with a positive comment. In order to grow as a writer, it is important to be able to identify what is working in a piece, even if you don’t like the topic, have issues with the voice, etc. What is the author doing that is working well? Where is the energy? What images are potent and interesting?
- Keep your criticism constructive. “I didn’t like it” is not helpful to a writer, but “I disagreed with the point the author was making, which made me lose interest in the piece. Maybe the author could look for a way to make it more accessible to people with diverse opinions.” Another example: “It was hard to follow” isn’t nearly as helpful as “The point of view moved from person to person very quickly, which I had a hard time following.” Follow up with specifics from your notes about where this happened in the piece, if possible.
- Focus on the writing. Our goal is to give the author feedback on their writing. If you find you are talking more about yourself and your own experiences related to the topic in the piece, consider talking with the author about those after the Open Read is over. Give the writing and the writer the attention during the few minutes that are allotted to their work, and engage on a personal level afterward.
Writers often do the heavy work of lifting and inspiring a society. This is important work and needs to be supported. Through reading our work aloud and seeking feedback, we can help each other find our voices, and create pieces that have meaning and integrity. Sierra Writers’ Open Reads are intended to be a safe place for writers to experiment with their craft and share their vision and voices. Be gentle, kind, and supportive.