Pub. Date:
University Press of New England
Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive / Edition 1

Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive / Edition 1

by Joni Cole


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All writers have stories of how some teacher, workshop participant, friend, or spouse gave them commentary that undermined their confidence and their writing. This “toxic feedback” has tainted feedback's reputation as a whole, causing too many writers to avoid or mismanage this valuable resource. In the first book to focus on this vital but delicate dynamic, Joni B. Cole applies first-person experience, real-life teaching examples, and her own unique ability to entertain while reaffirming the many merits of feedback. Cole shows writers how to use feedback to energize and inform their writing at every stage of the process. For feedback providers, she delivers insights into constructive criticism and the difference between being heard and being obnoxious. Finally, she offers advice to workshops and critique groups on how to thrive in this collective experience. In addition, established writers ranging from Julia Alvarez and Khaled Hosseini to Gregory Maguire and Jodi Picoult share their own feedback stories — from useful to inspiring to deranged — underscoring Cole's message that feedback plays a critical role in every writer's success. Through a mixture of instruction, anecdotes, and moral support, Cole manages to detoxify the feedback process with humor and without laying blame, inspiring both sides of the interaction to make the most of this powerful resource.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781584655442
Publisher: University Press of New England
Publication date: 07/31/2006
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 168
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Nominated for a US Fellowship Award and Pushcart Prize, Joni B. Cole has authored two books for writers, including Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier (listed as one of the "Best Books for Writers" by Poets & Writers magazine). She is also the author of the acclaimed essay collection, Another Bad-Dog Book: Essays on Life, Love, and Neurotic Human Behavior, andcreator of the three-volume “This Day” series that shares a day in the life of hundreds of women across America (“fascinating and eye-opening,” Publisher's Weekly).Joniis on the creative writing faculty of the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and teaches workshops within the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College. She is the founder of the Writer's Center of White River Junction, VT, and also leads expressive writing workshops at a diversity of nonprofit and educational organizations. Joni is a frequent speaker at conferences and universities around the country, and is a contributor to The Writer magazine. She lives in Vermont and has two daughters. For more info, email

Table of Contents

Every Writer Has a Story •Rethinking Feedback •What is Feedback? •EQ •Sarah Stewart Taylor: “Wow! This could be my job.” •Getting Feedback •Is It You . . . or Is It Them? •Processing Feedback •Samina Ali: “I would have sold my soul.” •Twenty-Two Years •Editing Your Editor •Ernest Hebert: “I wanted writing to be easy for me and it wasn’t.” •Feedback Hotlines •“Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” •Jennifer Crusie: “A story is a collaboration between a writer and a reader.” •The Club •Waiting for Feedback •Archer Mayor: “Emotion is a blinding force.” •The Value of Toxic Feedback •Giving Feedback •Preventing Mental Meltdowns •The Power of Positive Feedback •Grace Paley: “My nature wasn’t ambitious enough to go ahead on my own.” •A Right Way and a Wrong Way •Can You Please Be More Specific! •Khaled Hosseini: “Even if the book is good, no one is going to want to publish it.” •The Moment of Truth •Common Human Decency •Don (D. B.) Johnson: “My best advice is to marry well.” •Editorial Biases •Get That Look Off Your Face •Ted Kooser: “We all serve communities.” •Small Miracles •In the Company of Writers •Hey, Let’s Put On a Workshop! •How to Have a Good Group Discussion •Gregory Maguire: “I don’t revise in an architectural way.” •Who’s in Charge? •The Top Ten Rules of a Successful Writing Group •Julia Alvarez: “My dream of becoming a writer was a fool’s dream.” •Meet the World’s Worst Workshop •Publishing •Jodi Picoult: “I call our relationship my second marriage.” •Can Creative Writing Be Taught? •Crystal Wilkinson: “Processing feedback has to be a meditation.” •In Appreciation of Bad Writing •Epilogue: Feedback and the Real World •Acknowledgments •About the Author

What People are Saying About This

Leora Bersohn

"Drawing on her experience as the leader of a long-running writing workshop, Cole addresses the delicate process of giving and receiving constructive criticism. She offers helpful techniques for writers who want to respond productively to one another's work, incorporate such responses into their own writing, and perhaps even run their own workshops. Though the focus is on informal settings and exchanges among friends, Cole's suggestions are useful for students and teachers as well. When discussing the revision process, Cole reminds writers to sift through the various changes suggested by peers: 'You are the boss of your own story.' To critiquers, she preaches kindness, citing another instructor's advice: 'If I find myself frustrated or upset when I'm giving feedback, I stop, because if I don't critique with love, they won't understand what I'm trying to say.' Though some points are repeated too often, as is the word feedback itself, Cole enlivens her compositional and pedagogic advice by interspersing interviews with writers on the order of Grace Paley, Khaled Hosseini, and Jennifer Cruise. These segments, along with many other portions of Toxic Feedback, can stand alone and would spur discussion in any writing group. Strongly recommended for academic libraries and public libraries supporting writers."
Leora Bersohn, doctoral student, Columbia Univ., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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