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Slatbacks by Gloria Miller Allen

A Beginner’s Guide for Gazebo Partici...

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Staff Trace Estes
Username: Staff_trace

Post Number: 93
Registered: 01-2010

Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 - 04:13 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Beginner’s Guide for Gazebo Participation

Well, you have finally obtained the highly coveted (by those who haven’t applied correctly) Gazebo membership. The Staff felt that this essay might help you, the beginner, and we hope that it will help your facilitation into Gazebo society.

I. Your Introduction

Most newcomers, after being handed the posting “keys to the kingdom,” immediately rush to their computer files to find the poem they think is gong to dazzle everyone. They post and sit back, awaiting the kudos. Therefore, it is easy to imagine the dismay if that poem gets shredded by some of the talent that resides on the Gaz.
We feel that it is important to establish yourself among the voices; let folks get an idea of what you are “bringing to the table.” The best way to do this: lurk, read the other member’s posted poems and the critiques that accompany them, and try your hand at writing some of the critiques yourself. (Hints on writing Critique—section III)
The most important thing you can do is read the Guidelines before posting the smallest of words on the site. The Guidelines are located at the top of the Sections and contains information that will keep you alive. (Yes, they’re that important)
Now here is the hard part. We recommend trying all of these things before posting that introductory poem. We have found that even a week performing these activities will go a long way in easing your transition.

II. Your Poem, NOT “You’re Poem”

Before posting any work to the Gaz, do yourself and your readers a favor. Proofread. For those that missed that – PROOFREAD! Yes, some errors occur. But a mixed bag of mistakes posted on the board begs for evisceration, and usually, someone will oblige.
This is stated in a number of key positions and different sections on the Gazebo site: “The Gazebo is not a beginner’s workshop…This is not an easy crowd to impress…The Gazebo is known for its honest, often blunt, critiques. If you don't like a critique you receive, please do not take it personally. Keep in mind the fact that it is your work that is being critiqued, not you.”
What does that mean? (No, that’s not a dumb question) Simply put: if you post a poem on the Gazebo, you are requesting our membership to read, digest, and then give you feedback in the form of critique on that poem.
Now is when it’s important to remember the heading of this section. Your poem has no pulse, no feelings to crush. If the poem gets hammered (yes, even that masterpiece) You need to keep in mind that most of the critiquers aren’t questioning you, but your poem. Ex. structure, sonics, linebreaks, syntax, grammar, and use of metaphor/simile/cliché. Indeed, it may feel like most of the posters are questioning why your formal education stopped somewhere south of high school. But the real purpose behind the Gaz is to bring to bear a barrage of different comments and techniques to a poem and allow the poet to pick from those points to better their work.
If you do not intend to change or revise your poem; or you will not heed the advice offered, your poem should have never been posted in the first place. Please take note of the word “workshop.”

III. Critique Style

There are as many techniques to writing critique as there are ways to write poetry. Some pull at “nits”—listing obvious mistakes in spelling, punctuation and syntax. As you were warned in the previous section, proofreading your material is just good manners. If a critiquer, or “critter,” lists more than four easy mistakes, the work should never have been posted.
Other types of critique include the line-by-line method, idea-to-idea, section-by-section, or the poem as a whole so the critique can explore the main themes/topics.
Some critters only feel qualified to tell the poet about the feelings the work has evoked. This is an acceptable technique if it strives to tell what works and what fails. The caveat to this style of writing critique: if the writer is slipping in more than a few “That was good/I could feel it/Thanks for posting” one-liner type of critiques to buffer their post count so they can slap their work up, they will quickly draw fire from other members and moderators.

IV. Response to Critique

   Things heard a million times (and that ain’t no lie): 

“Well this poem has won an award…
was liked by my professor…
was published in…
was obviously above your limited intelligence…”

“I’ll happen you to know I am an English teacher…
a poetry professor…
an editor for…
published in…
an award-winning author of…”

“I went looking for your credits to see how qualified you are to judge my work and…”

Using any of the above (even if they’re true) opens you up to a floodgate of negativity. Why? Because most of the people you are making these excuses to have already heard them a thousand times. Oh, and because they are professional writers, editors, publishers, high school dropouts, teachers, professors, award winners and folks from all over the world, with a multitude of ways when it comes to looking at a subject. And ninety-nine percent of them can spot lame excuses from twenty feet.

More responses that are frowned on:
1) the “accidental exclusion of any negative critters when you thank folks for their advice.
2) singling out a critiquer for ridicule.
3) the ever-popular quote/unquote slash. Ex. “Thanks for your “critique.”
4) the snotty assassin.

So what is there to do? Probably the hardest thing in the world—the “Blanket Thank You.” It will cover everyone who has taken time out of his or her lives to write you a critique – positive or negative. Have effusive thanks for the person who “got it”? Some follow up questions for those who didn’t? That mail icon next to every member’s name is a portal to the Gazebo’s PM system. Feel free to write to anyone you want.
Something to remember with the PM service (and with any of your responses): Ad hom will not be tolerated. It is usually the express train off the Gazebo.

V. Unraveling Problems

The last thing the Staff wants to bring to newcomer attention—we are the final word in all matters. These include disputes, ad hom determinations and membership status. That sounds ominous, but it serves a purpose. If you have problems dealing with anyone, or with any of the Gazebo’s rules, please feel free to contact one of us via the PM service.

Be the person your dog
already thinks you are

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