Strange Birds are a group of writers who come together to exchange feedback on work they hope to publish. This is done in an informal and lively manner, and these guidelines are here to help people present their work and to give and receive feedback in a sensitive and helpful way.
Our code of conduct isn’t meant to police thought, opinion or creativity, but rather to create a safe and trusting space in which to explore challenging subjects and engage in brave conversations. It also covers things like being respectful of one another’s work, being mindful about absorbing people’s ideas and not plagiarizing people’s work. Basically, it’s about respect— respecting freedom of speech, respecting art, respecting difference, but most importantly respecting one another.
What to submit
We don’t focus on specific genres and welcome all kinds of creative fiction. However, while there are no rules regarding the type, style or content of reading samples, the range of skills and experience of group members means we can’t always offer appropriate critique on every type of writing. If you are unsure, please ask in advance if the group can offer relevant feedback.
Reading samples tend to be around 1,000 words in length, to allow time for each group member to read out part of their piece and receive feedback during the session.
Violent, bigoted, sexual or other graphic content: We don’t generally stop people from talking about these subjects, but bear in mind that different people have very different ideas of what is challenging material. If you’re unsure, please flag this with your group organizer ahead of time.
How to submit
You’ll receive an email reminder to submit your writing about 5 days in advance of the session. This could be a short story, poem, novel extract or flash fiction (max. 1000 words).
We use a proprietary system that automates the entire submissions and feedback delivery through Gmail. You will need a Gmail account to upload your submission to a Google form and we feedback using Google docs. You will receive your peer’s writing and and their feedback via email.
We have to feel comfortable sharing our writing, so it’s important to be able to trust each other. This means following a few guidelines that promote mutual respect for ourselves and our writing. The following are a few points to bear in mind before and during a meeting.
Tips for giving feedback
- Be kind
Writing is a vulnerable act, so be empathetic. When you’re preparing your feedback, make sure you acknowledge what they’ve done right as well as what needs improvement. Every piece of writing has some strengths, so look for them and be prepared to point them out. But instead of sandwiching harsh criticism between empty positives, be honest. “Diplomacy” is your watchword.
- Don’t nitpick
If you want to give grammar notes, make them brief and written. Unless they affect the clarity of the piece, please do not spend time in the feedback sessions on double-spaces, indents, forgotten commas etc. Make those suggestions as comments in the doc, but use the live feedback session for reviewing larger overall themes.
- Keep it within the group
Anything read out during a Strange Birds session or uploaded to our shared drive must be kept within the group. An author’s writing is their intellectual property and should not be shared outside the group without their explicit permission
- Use feedback as indicators not absolutes
Because most of us feel vulnerable when others critique our work, receiving feedback can be challenging. It’s important to remember that critiquing your writing isn’t personal! You’re entitled to disagree with suggested changes, but do it internally, not at the group. However, if the majority of the group has the same comment, it’s likely that they’re right. But it’s more important to look for the cause of the comment, though you don’t always have to act on the specific advice.
- Be respectful
- Please RSVP (and don’t be a flake)
- Ask questions
- Listen after speaking
- Give positive feedback first
- Consider genre and writing experience