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S E Q U E N T I A L L Y SPEAKING
Visual Narrative Workshops

Critique Groups...a cornerstone of creative growth

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Sequential art is a literary artform.

Anyone who has read Scott McCloud's penultimate Understanding Comics will have no trouble realizing this. ( If you have read UC, and do not agree that comics are a literary artform, well... I'd like to hear about it! )  Will Eisner explained the differences and similarities of reading prose narrative as compaired to reading visual narrative.  In Mr. Esiner's book, Comics & Sequential Art, he states "The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to excersize both visual and verbal interpretive skills.  The regimines of art (eg. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimines of literature (eg. grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other.  The reading of the comic book is an act of both aestheitic perception and intellectual pursuit."

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Peer-to-peer writing groups have become a popular method for people to help each other grow and evolve as writers. Across the country, in bookstores, libraries and colleges, writers are gathering to share their work and refine their skills. It is an invaluable resource for any storyteller.

In late autumn of 2000, I attended my first peer-to-peer writers' group.  Even before I began attending the writing group, I had been striving to transfer what works in what I read about in other writers' critique groups into a format that sequential artists & writers could use. Since Sequentially Speaking began meeting in January of 2003 and the monthly "Visual Narrative Workshop" has been going full swing, I feel we have something that is successful and can be emulated and improved by others.

With that in mind, below is an excerpt from Diane Masiello's "Guidelines for Peer Critique Groups." The full text can be found here. She likens a good critique group to the spirit of those Parisian/Greenwich Village cafe societies of the '20s and '30s. Insofar as it seeks to promote the lively exchange of ideas and dissemination of information.

By the way, when Diane mentions "writers," understand that in a VNW, that includes both writers AND artists.

The Art of the Critique

Notes for writers whose work is being critiqued:

"No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing." (E.B. White)

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary." (Jessamyn West)

To work in a critique group, you need to bring the following things.

    1. As Jessamyn West said, guts-the courage to share your work with others.
    2. Respect for your readers-or as E.B. White said, trust in your readers' intelligence.
    3. The knowledge that it is your work up for critique, not you as a person.
    4. Knowledge that a critique group is both a true writing necessity and a true writing luxury. No writer writes alone. Even the writers who are best known as being solipsistic and solitary-like the Romantic poets Keats, Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth and Coleridge-shared their writing with each other for feedback. There is no such thing as a writer in a garret, composing away from the world and all outside contact. Granted, we often need to shut ourselves away for awhile when we're composing, but the next step is that we then need to share that writing with others. A writing group is absolutely necessary to write well, so you should value your peers' feedback.
    5. Some type of writing that is in some way not yet finished. You need to bring words, ideas, concepts. They should preferably be at least scribbled down on a napkin so that you can present them to the group in a minimum of time to allow for maximum feedback. However, even if you just have an idea you want to talk through, your critique group might be able to help even if you haven't jotted down a single thing.
    6. Some concept of what type of feedback you want on that writing.
    7. Copies of your writing. Ideally, you should try to bring enough copies of your work for the entire critique group. Suboptimally, you may bring a few copies for group members to share. If you're running out of the house at the last minute and can't get the copies made then just bring yourself. The group will deal, but understand that your audience may not be able to keep all the points of a long piece fresh in their minds without text to look back on, so the feedback may be less than ideal.

There's a good deal more that needs written about in creating and running a Visual Narrative Workshop.

The Columbus

Visual Narrative Workshop meets regularly
on the Third Sunday every Month* from 2- 4pm at

The Write Place
933 Hamlet Street in Columbus, OH(Located in the library of St. Joseph Montessori School in Italian Village)

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Creators are invited to bring copies (8"x11") of their work-in-progress to share. There is a copy machine on-site if more copies need to be made. This workshop is open to all levels of ability and genres.  The workshop is facilitated by Max Ink.

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