No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique
by Victoria A. Hudson, M.F.A.
Gutterdog Press

"A writer has privileged you with the honor of helping her hone her craft. Take that seriously. Be nice. Be thoughtful. Be honest."

The golden rule of "do unto others" is quietly at the heart of Victoria Hudson's smart, compact guidebook, intended for anyone interested in forming or joining a writing group, or looking for a kinder, gentler way of critiquing. Concise and well-written, No Red Pen is filled with practical knowledge and sage advice, particularly for individuals seeking feedback on their writing craft.

With a Master's degree in writing, and insight gained from workshops, writers' groups, and retreats, Hudson is well versed in what works and what doesn't within a writers' group forum. Noting that a critique group is meant to serve as a writer's support team, Hudson emphasizes the importance of finding the right one. Here the author advises us of what to look for, and stresses those agreements and expectations must be defined. When the focus turns to critiquing, Hudson points to Mary H. Webb's Three Stage Method as the best format to follow. This technique incorporates positive group input, addresses the writer's concerning questions, and then concludes with constructive suggestions. Above all, the author advises that "fundamental to any critique is respect for the work."

Hudson effectively includes in each chapter, a boxed list of key points to consider. This clever highlighting tool gives readers quick and easy access to the information provided. The lessons ultimately reveal that "information is what the writer needs to become a better writer."

Like a soothing balm, Hudson's insight could help lessen the common angst that often surfaces within writers, beneath the sharpness of a critic's pen. Ideally the author's quality evaluation of writing groups and critiquing will also help alleviate the sting of any harsh past criticisms, or squelched literary dreams. Whether a sensitive newbie or seasoned pro, Hudson's resourceful little book offers all writers an invaluable read.

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