Monday, February 14, 2011

Audience Feedback

Another argument for not “projecting” to an audience:

I wrote in my last Community Arts Cafe column that when we involve the audience in a presentation, rather than projecting at them, we can pick up valuable information. I used, as an example, a reading that I gave from When Last on the Mountain, an anthology that I co-edited. I had thought that the eponymous piece would be a great ender. Very inspiring, I thought. Wrong. I could feel from the audience that it had not been inspiring, but a big downer. So I looked at my watch, noted with “delighted surprise” that we had time for one more, flipped through the book and landed on a piece that left them laughing.

I had a similar experience a few weeks later. I was reading the first 5 minutes of a new short story at an open mic. I’d had 7 other writers critique it, had revised it many times, and had thought it wasn’t the greatest story ever, but good enough to send out.

The first page went well–laughter in the appropriate places–but during the second page, I heard a voice in my head saying, “This is so banal.” A voice, not one of my own thoughts.

So I took the story to my best critic and, without telling him why, asked him to read the first 3 pages. He immediately told me what was wrong with it. So now I have to rewrite the whole story, and I’m embarrassed that I ever sent it out.

Audience feedback is a marvelous thing.

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